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Being led by or directed by the Spirit is crucial to successfully living as a follower of Christ. But how should this play out in our daily lives? Todd Wagner discusses Paul's exhortation to the Galatians to reject the impulses of the flesh and to yield to the Word of God that was written on their hearts at the time of their salvation.
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To Ignore, Impale or Encourage: What it Means to Bear One Another's Burdens
"Is He in You?" What That Means, What it Doesn't, and Why it Matters
Three Ways to Respond but Only One Way to Really Live
Freedom: Defined, Defended and Demonstrated
I am really excited about what we're doing today. I want to tell you why. I really believe if you'll hang with me and walk through what we're going to talk about today, I'm going to explain to you something that will allow you to let God arise in your life like never before.
I'm going to walk you through and explain a couple of basic concepts I think are largely really misunderstood or not understood at all by most people who have walked with God for a long time, people who've said they love Jesus but don't know how to live the spiritual life. They don't know what the spiritual life is. They don't know what it means to have a relationship with the Spirit.
We are in the middle of a little book called Galatians. The first four chapters of this book, we talked about how this book talks about how the long arm of the law keeps trying to reach in and drag you back and how your nature is bent toward this perverted and wrong understanding of what religion is, who God is, and how you relate to him.
It's the natural inclination of men to revert to systems that we perform in well enough and long enough that we would make the grade. We see God as this ever-present teacher who is grading us, and we hope we do well enough, long enough that we'd move to this new place. We'd graduate from this less than good place to this idea called heaven. It's a wrong understanding of God and a wrong understanding of what our relationship with him is rooted in and founded on.
It keeps eating its way back into your life. People in positions like mine love it because it allows them to lord it over you because they talk about these systems. They tell you what you have to do, how you have to attend, how you have to give, and how you have to behave. "Otherwise, you're out, man! I hold the keys." It becomes very oppressive.
It also feeds us because we believe that it resonates with who we are. We want to be people who can solve our own problems, but we find out that this idea leads to death and not to life. It's a wrong understanding of the greatness of God and the limitations of who we are. This long arm of the law keeps clawing its way back in, this performance-based acceptance.
What we see is when you have a right understanding of God and a right understanding of what a relationship with him is founded on and rooted in, it leads to great freedom, not discouragement, not fear, not insecurity. It leads to life. So there's a long arm of the law, but there's a longer reach of freedom. We are celebrating that and understanding in new ways together.
This week, what I want to talk about is how you live in relationship with God today. What does it mean to be follower of Christ today? What does it mean to be a person who's filled with the Spirit, who's indwelt with the Spirit? What does it mean to be a somebody who is led by the Spirit?
This stuff is often perverted and mistaught by individuals who will call you to a certain place and a certain activity that maybe God will show up in that moment and in that activity. You can have more of his Spirit, and you can be filled with the Spirit. You can go and experience more of the freedom and the life he intends for you. I want to walk us through that and give you a right understanding today.
We find these exhortations and these ideas of how we can do it right here in Galatians 5. It is the key to the spiritual life. Let me say this as we get started. Everything we experience that is good from God we experience because of faith: our faith in what God has done, our faith in what God calls us to, and our faith in what God is going to do. From the very beginning, this idea of salvation is rooted and grounded in faith in the work of God accomplished through his love and kind intention toward us, not through what we do other than respond to what he has done.
When you hear the idea of salvation in Scripture, there are really three components to salvation. One is this idea of justification, that when you are saved, you are justified. You are saved from the wrath of God that is poured out on those who are not like him, who have turned away from him and gone their own way. You're justified not when God decides to overlook your sin but when God pays the penalty for your sin himself in the person of Jesus Christ. Your faith in the work of God in the person of Jesus leads to your justification.
The second part of salvation is this idea of sanctification, which is you becoming more of who God wants you to be, wanted you to be in the beginning. You moved away from that glorified, beautiful life of intended beauty for you. You began to walk in a way that was unfamiliar to God, the way of rebellion, the way of sin, the way that leads to death. We have faith in the Spirit who allows us to be sanctified. Faith in Jesus is what makes us justified; faith in the Spirit is what makes us more like God wants us to be. I'm going to explain that explicitly today.
Faith in God the Father, that he will one day reign in a very physical, tangible way that eradicates sin completely, deals with even the nature of rebellion that is in our flesh, in this world, and in our Enemy who seduces us away from God… He slams all of that away for eternity and allows us to live in a glorified state with him where there is no sin, no weeping, no gnashing of teeth, no sorrow, no darkness, no death.
We have faith that God will accomplish that, so we're people of hope, we're people of joy, we're people with peace, even in the midst of a broken and imperfect world because we know what God will do. It's always our faith in what God has done but let me explain some things to you. Let me explain what it means to be filled with the Spirit. In Ephesians 5, watch this. We start in verse 15. What we have here in this little section of Scripture is God, through Paul, again, pleading for us.
He says, "Therefore, in light of all that Jesus has done, be careful now how you walk, step by step, how you go about your life, not as unwise men but as wise men, men who don't live according to the wisdom of the world but live according to the wisdom of God, who make the most of every day, of your time. The days that you live in are naturally bent toward evil." This is a time that is represented, if you will, by rebellion against God.
"So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation…" Dissipation means you become deluded, less than what God intended you to be. When you're a person who's drunk, you don't become a better driver, a better dad. You don't become a better neighbor. You become more of a fool; you become less than. Sometimes it's funny, but it's only funny because we watch somebody be destructive to themselves and do things they wouldn't otherwise do. It's a tragic humor; it's not really funny.
It's dissipation. When somebody drinks this stuff, they are controlled by the alcohol, if you will, the agents, the drugs that are in there, and they become less than the man God wanted them to be. In contrast to that, he says, "…be filled with the Spirit…" Think about that little analogy. "Don't be filled with alcohol, controlled by alcohol, but be filled with the Spirit."
A lot of us, when we think of the word filled, we immediately go to this idea of our tank is empty, so we need to be filled at the tune of about $3.55 a gallon right now, thank you very much. When we think filled, we default toward empty, but that is not always the way filled is use. It leads to great error, manipulation, and exploitation.
Sometimes it's with guys in positions like mine because they tell you they can help you, through some ecstatic experience or through some prayer or through some activity, be more filled. It typically involves a service, a revival, and a series of events where the biblical idea is that you would be increasingly yielded to the Spirit who you are already living in relationship with.
Watch this. You use the word filled two ways. You use it like, "It's empty; it needs to be filled." You also use it this way, and it's used in the Bible this same way. It's used as somebody who is filled with awe. In other words, you have not drunk a bunch of awe and now are filled with awe, so it's awesome. No, but you see something that is just so spectacular, so overwhelming… It's used in the Scripture of people who saw what God did through Jesus. They go, "Man!" They were filled with awe; they were struck with awe.
You see in the Scripture people who were filled with fear. In other words, they're paralyzed by this emotion which controls them. Or, filled with anger, this rage which consumes them… They didn't drink a vial of anger. It's not like Grandpa Munster down in the basement, pouring vials back and forth, concocting and bubbling up, and he downs it. Now anger is in him, and he's filled with anger. No, it's an emotion which rules your life and controls you.
Filled with lust… "I don't really care what this does to you, does to me, does to the world, does to the life inside of you, does to the disease in this world. I'm going to do what I want to do, and I'm going to be driven by these feelings of sexual passion." That person is filled with lust, and it doesn't lead to life. The idea is that when you're filled with the Spirit it will lead to great things.
The idea of being filled with is the idea of being controlled by. The words right there be filled with is what is called an imperative. It's a command. It's plural; it's a command given to all of you. It's a past perfect imperative plural which means this: "All of you be continually filled with or controlled by the Spirit because when you do that, it will be well with your soul, and others will look at you and go, 'That is wholly different, wholly separate from how the world acts.'"
How? Look what it says in Ephesians 5. Specifically, the sign of being filled with the Spirit is not that you speak in some ecstatic language that no one understands. It's that you control the tongue that you have. You speak to one another with spiritual truths, with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart toward God. You always give thanks to God for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. You are people overwhelmed with thanksgiving.
Then it changes your relationships. You are subject to one another in the fear of Christ because you know that each of you are made in the image of God. Husbands love their wives and do what's best for their wives. By the way, verse 22 is where it says, "Wives, submit to your husbands," but look what verse 21 says. "Each of you, be subject to one another in the fear of Christ."
I have no problem submitting to a leader over me who is subject to my best interests. Amen? Catch that. He says, "Men, you lead the way Christ leads. You die for her. You do nothing that's not in the best interest of those underneath your headship. Women, submit to that kind of leadership, and complete and encourage and spur on that which is not like that kind of leadership." The idea of filling in Scripture is the idea of control.
Watch this. The idea of indwelling… This is important because so many of us go, "Wait, if I'm indwelt by the Spirit, why do I need to be filled by the Spirit again?" When we think of indwelling, something being in you, we think of it physically being in you. Watch this. This is going to be radical for a lot of you because it says in the Scripture, "Don't you know that the body is the temple of God and the Spirit of God dwells in you?" That is used in 1 Corinthians 3 of the corporate body of Jesus Christ, that the Spirit of God is in the church of Jesus Christ.
It's used again in 1 Corinthians 6:19 of individuals, that the Spirit of God is in them. We think, "Well, in means in. I think that the Holy Spirit of God is in me. The moment I believed, I came into a relationship with God, and I guess somehow this supernatural gun with some kind of needle dart hit me. All of a sudden, this God-shaped Todd came into me, so now the Spirit is in me." This is a wrong understanding.
Watch this. This is very important. When you talk about the Holy Spirit, you talk about who the Holy Spirit is, what he accomplishes. You don't talk about the whereness of God. It is a category mistake. It's like talking about what the color green tastes like. It's a color! It doesn't have a taste. Immediately, a lot of you guys are going to go, "Yeah, it does. Spearmint or wintergreen. That's what it tastes like." No.Ho
The idea of the whereness of God is a category mistake. You go, "Wait a minute, Todd. The Scripture says that God is omnipresent; he is everywhere." I'm going to say, "Yes." That is very right and true. I go to you, "The Spirit of God is everywhere, right?" They go, "Yeah." I go, "Even nonbelievers?" They go, "Well, no. Everywhere but nonbelievers." I go, "No. The reason you think that way… If he's omnipresent, he's omnipresent, even in nonbelievers."
The idea of the omnipresence of God is his sovereignty, his dominion, his reign, his direct causal influence and control is over everything, everywhere. When you talk about where the Holy Spirit is in you, it speaks more about where you are in relationship to God than where you're talking about God is in relationship to you. This is very important. When you talk about the Holy Spirit being in you, you're talking more about where you are in relationship to God than you are talking about where God is in relationship to you.
The indwelling is a reference to your new understanding of who God is. You have escaped this small-minded idea that God is this oppressive ruler wanting you to perform certain things so eventually you will graduate to this greater place, as I said, called heaven. We use the word in like this in the English language. When you talk about being in love, you don't step into this geographic called love. What you're saying is, "In this moment, in relationship to my commitment to you, my desire to serve you, honor you, and act in your best interest, I am committed to you in that way."
Let me take it to a category, if you can't relate to love, that all of us can relate to. How many of you have ever be in trouble? There is not a geographic presence of trouble somewhere. You go, "Yeah, there is. Right where I live; that's trouble." We've all been there. It's because we are not in the Spirit, and sometimes we get to places that lead to death and lead to trouble. When you say, "I'm in trouble," you don't talk about where you are geographically, you are talking the context of your relationship with that which should not be.
When you say to somebody, "I love you. When you go someplace, I want you to know, you'll always be in my heart." That person is going to go, "How can that be? I'm going to Cincinnati, and you're staying here in Dallas, and yet I'm going to be in your heart? What part of me is going to be geographically present in your heart?" You don't do that. You understand what they mean. You're talking about a relationship you have with that person, rooted and grounded in love.
Let me say this again. When you talk about the geographic presence of God in things, that is more pantheistic than it is traditional Christian theology and theism. In other words, you can't step on a cockroach because to a pantheist, "God is in the cockroach. God is in everything and through everything. Don't kill that little aspect of God!" I have news for you. God has sovereignty over the cockroach, but I can squash his little squeaky head if I want, and I ain't killing anything of God. It's okay. The holy rat can be extinguished here. I'm not killing something of God.
Why do I go through all of this? Because so many of us struggle with, "Man, I guess I need more of God. I thought I was indwelt with him, but I must be leaking. And yet, it says that I'm sealed in the Spirit, indwelt by the Spirit, but I'm supposed to be filled with the Spirit. The Spirit confuses the heck out of me; I don't know what to do!" Great. You're in the perfect place today.
Let me say again: The moment you believe and have faith in what Christ has done, you are in relationship with God through Jesus Christ. You are in Christ. You are in the truth. You are in the Spirit, and the Spirit dwells in you. It's not a geographical presence; it's where you are in relationship with God. Having come into a right understanding of who God is, that he's not this troublesome meddler, he's not a cosmic killjoy, that he's not some performance-based lord….
He is a lover who has dealt with your separation from him and your rebellion against him by perfectly providing for that which you need by being an eternally perfect sacrifice himself because his eternally perfect person has been offended. You trust in what he has done, and it makes you right with God. You trust in what he calls you to do, and it makes you live rightly. You trust in what he will accomplish one day, and all will be right and as it should be.
Do you see that? This is why it says in Galatians 5:16 this same idea. "But I say, walk…" Step by step. The word walk in Greek is peripateō. It is this word that we often hear about somebody who cannot walk. They are a paraplegic. They're inhibited in their ability to walk. Step by step, to move forward, to walk by the Spirit, what you do in reliance on who God is…
You'll never be holy. I will never be holy. God is holy, and when I yield to him, and if you go down there to the very end there in verse 18, look where it says, "But if you are led by the Spirit…" So we don't just walk with the Spirit, we follow the Spirit. If you are led by the Spirit, it leads to greatness and life.
The Holy Spirit is who's holy and who produces holiness through us as we participate in accordance with his will. When we walk as he would have us walk, live as he would have us live, the world goes, "That is a wholly different way to walk than the world walks." We say, "That's right. It's not because we're better than you. It's because we're living as God wants us to live in anticipation of the way all who are in relationship with God will live one day when he deals finally and firmly with evil. It will be a blessing and good."
Today, in the midst of chaos in this world that is not led by the Spirit of God but is led by a spirit of rebellion, there are injections of light and salt and hope that make the people long for more of that Spirit to prevail and come and convict people of the way they are depending on for instruction and life. They see death where they go, and they should see life where we go.
This has been accomplished through the death of Christ and through the provision he has given us when he came. I'm going to take you back to Jeremiah 31. Watch this. Jeremiah 31, starting in verse 31. It says, "Behold, days are coming…" There was a promise that was given to Israel. "…when I will make a new covenant…"
"There's going to be a new relationship between me and you and the way that we work. I'm not going to change. You are still going to be a rebel, but I'm going to relate to you differently. I'm going to accomplish something as I more fully reveal who I am. It won't be like the deal I made with the fathers of the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. My covenant, which they broke, although I was a perfect lover to them…"
Verse 33: "But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days** … ***I will put My law within them…"* Where was the law in the Old Covenant? The law was not written on the hearts of men. The greatness of God was not revealed through the perfect Word of God. The law was revealed through earthquakes, through smoke, through revelations and miracle on Sinai. It was written on tablets of stone.
Men looked at those tablets of stone, and they saw that, "You know what? I see what God says we ought to be like, and I ain't nothing like that. I can't live that way. All I see up there is stuff I cannot consistently do and, frankly, I don't want to do. But you know what? It'd be awfully good if everybody lived that way. I can see that if somebody could do that, it'd be good. We'd be a great nation. It'd be a real safe and peaceful place.
I'd love for somebody to not covet my wife. I'd love if I didn't covet somebody else's wife but could love my own. I'd love it if somebody didn't steal from me and I didn't want to steal from others. I'd love it if people didn't hate and murder." Jesus even enlarged that to the idea of what you do in your heart, not just what you do outwardly and physically.
God said, "I'm going to do something one day where I'm going to write my law not on a tablet of stone, but I'm going to write it on the human heart. That will be a new relationship I have with you because I'm going to reveal myself to you, not through some miraculous manifestation in terms of signs, wonders, and miracles to show you that I love you and I'm for you.
I'm going to walk in your midst, and I'm going to show you the exact representation of my nature. The visible image of God will be revealed to you, and you will see my goodness, my kindness, my love, and my redemptive nature in action. You will see healing, you will see life, you will see forgiveness, and you will love it. You will seek me and trust in me like never before. I will write that relationship of love on your heart, not that relationship that I am distant from who you are because I see you don't meet the law. You will follow me." Do you see that?
Watch what else he'll do with this New Covenant. "I will write it on their heart. I will be their God, and they will be my people. They won't teach again. They won't need to reveal who I am because each man and each brother will know the Lord because it will be fully revealed through the person of Christ."
"…for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest…" Watch this amazing thing. "…I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more." There's going to be a day when the people don't have to continually offer sacrifices as a reminder that they didn't meet the things that are written on stone. Every day, day after day, they would go and sacrifice as a constant reminder that if innocent blood wasn't shed, their blood would be demanded before a holy God.
From the very beginning, God made provision, even in the law, for their inability to keep the law. Their faith in that substitutionary sacrifice is what allowed them to be righteous in God's eyes, but we are told that it's impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin. There will be a day when God says, "I will remember your sin no more."
What day will that be? It's the day, not when God chooses to overlook rebellion and sin, but the day God deals completely and perfectly with sin, the day that God brings the perfect Lamb. His eternal wrath is perfectly satisfied because here's an eternally perfect sacrifice: himself on a cross for you. "Because my wrath will be poured out, my wrath will be satisfied, I will justify those who put their confidence in my provision. You will see my love, you will see my justice, you will see my goodness, and you will love me. I will remember your sin no more."
That's why it's such a significant thing that it says in the Scripture that Jesus is seated at the right hand of God. Why is Jesus seated? Because he is our Great High Priest. If you'll read the Old Testament, in the Holy of Holies, where the sacrifice was made continually for sin, there was never a place for the priest to sit. Why? Because the sacrifices were never done.
Jesus is seated. Why? Because the perfect sacrifice has been made, and there is no longer a need to offer up a sacrifice for your sin. Why? Because God has forgotten your sins because…why? Your sins are covered with the perfect sacrifice. Here's the deal. Having had faith in this Jesus, having faith in God who did not spare his own Son but delivered him up for you, how will that God not also with him freely give you everything else you need for life? In other words, if he'll die for you that you might live, don't you think he'll instruct you in how you should live best?
When you come to know your Father for who he really is and you're no longer a child that has to live by rules… I have now some older ones in my house. When they were little, there were just a lot of rules. It was like, "No, you eat now. You eat this way. You sleep now. You sleep at this time. You don't do that. You get that out of your mouth." Lots of rules…
Now, I have kids who come to me, who know that I love them. They have watched me for 8 to 15 years, and they know that when my wife and I suggest things, it's not because we're just showing off that we can win the wrestle royal. We're not just showing off that we're the strong ones.
They realize the reason we have instruction about how to eat, how to rest, how to work, and how to learn is because we love them. How to relate to other people… It's because we love them. What to watch, what to ingest in their mind… It's because we love them, and we're not trying to rip them off.
I'm really not trying to go, "What is the greatest, funniest movie that's out there? Let's make sure our kids don't see it." I'm going, "If they go see that, they're just like me. I have a nature just like theirs. What I meditate on, what I look at, what I laugh at, what I flirt with is what I'll fall in. I don't want my kids to flirt with that. Let's not go there. Let's meditate on what is true, right, honorable, pure, and lovely. Whatever is excellent and worthy of praise, let's let our mind dwell on these things."
They start to understand now. "Even though all of my friends say it's a great movie, even though everybody is talking about that it's a great movie, my mom and dad say, 'Let's not do it.' Mom and Dad love us. They're not ripping us off from the good stuff. They're trying to make sure we're healthy." They come to me, and they say, "Dad, how would you handle this? What do you think about this?"
What I do as they get older is I direct them to the Word. I direct them to things they can read that will help them run that over the course of the Word and make decisions. I'm not trying raise obedient kids; I'm trying to raise healthy adults. I want them to walk in wisdom because there's life there.
If they walk according to the feelings, I know where that will get them. If they walk according to the way of this world, I know where that will get them. If they walk according to the Deceiver, I know where that will get them. I love them, and I'm trying to teach them, "Walk this way. There is life here."
One more thing… Look at John 7. This is what's called the Feast of Tabernacles. This is one of the major celebrations of Israel that they would have throughout the year. It was a time when they celebrated how God provided for them miraculously in the desert. One of the things they would do when they were in the desert is they needed something to drink. They would go to this rock, and through God's provision, water would come forth from this rock. We find out that rock is a picture of how Christ and his provision for us.
What would happen is everyday there would be a procession from the temple down to a spring that was not far from the temple. The priest would take a golden pitcher, and he would fill it up in the spring. They would all go back, and he would pour that water out over the altar as an expression of what God did to bring life to them when what they were doing was living in a desert of despair and wandering in rebellion against God that would lead to death apart from God's provision.
On the last day, the greatest day of the feast, Jesus, it says in the Scripture, stood up. When rabbis would teach, typically, they would sit down, but Jesus stood up and said, "Listen, folks!" Can you imagine this? Think about how solemn and pious the systems of men are. Here's Jesus in the middle of the most… This is St. Peter's Basilica, Christmas Eve, and Jesus stands up, and he says, "Hey! If anyone is thirsty, you come to me and drink." "From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water."
This is blasphemy, and it's disrupting the normal order of things. Again, think about it somebody doing this in Rome on that day. "But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified." What does that mean? It means the Spirit had already been around. The Spirit had come and gone and rested on people all throughout the Old Testament.
The point is Jesus saying, "If you'll come to me, you'll never thirst again because when you come to me, it's coming to God. When you come to God, he will lead you to life, and you'll never thirst for knowledge, for truth, for provision, for protection again. I am the way, I am the truth, I am the life.
When I go and am glorified, meaning I'm not here and I go back to where I'm from, I'm not leaving you as an orphan. I will still give you my Spirit, who will reveal to you my mind. You can live that I want you to live because you will now be in relationship with God if you come to me. Do you get this? I am the provision; the living water is the Spirit. You have to drink of it continually."
Go back and let's watch. All of this to set the foundation for you to get thrilled with Galatians. Watch in chapter 5, verse 19. He says, "If you don't drink of God, if you don't follow Christ, if you are not led by Jesus because this is the thing. You are to walk by the power of the Spirit. You let God arise in you. It's not you being holy; you are following him." What did Jesus say? He didn't just say, "Let go and let God." He said, "Walk. Be a good soldier in active service." Where does a good soldier go?
"Where do you want me to go, sir?"
"This way is how you march toward life."
"Yes, sir." You follow Jesus, so what does the Spirit say?
"Follow me. Be continually controlled by me. Be filled with me."
Let the Word of God richly dwell in you. Trust in the Lord with all of your heart. Lean not on your own understanding, but in all of your ways acknowledge him, and he'll make your path straight. If you follow your spirit… Look at Galatians 5:19 again. If you are led by your fallen nature, the nature that said "no" to God, "no" to his Word, and "no" to the character of God and wanted to follow the deceiver, who said, "Do what thou wilt…" When you do what you want, see if you don't recognize some of this.
It seems right and life-giving to be free to do what I want but let me remind you what we said. Freedom to do what you want is not the same as the freedom to choose your consequences. Anybody in here is free to do whatever they want, but you will reap what you sow. The freedom comes with living as God wants is the freedom to live and be blessed by the way you live.
When you live according to the deeds of the flesh, your flesh craves that which is called porneia or perversion of right morality. The first place that all of our flesh screams is in the area of physical relationships. We distort and pervert what God says is the right way to enjoy the gift of our sexuality and expression of love on this earth and the pleasure and joy associated with it.
We pervert it, and we think that's life, not an expression and a piece of love, but in and of itself is life. It's not. It leaves you empty, and even though they give you pills that make sure you don't conceive life, they don't give you a pill that covers the guilt and shame that destroys the life within you. Then you take it a step further and go, "If life does arise because the pill and the latex didn't work, then I'll kill the life that came, because that's right to me." We pervert that.
He says, "Look, this is where the flesh leads to." To immorality, to impurity, to sensuality, which is just an absolute obsession with, a complete, overwhelming need for more and more and more… It never satisfies; it's never enough. "That one picture doesn't do it; I need more pictures. Those pictures don't do it; I need some reality. That reality didn't do it; I need to force it." It just keeps growing.
Then it goes on and it talks about not just our physical expression but our understanding of God. We distort that through idolatry. The deed of the flesh, the rebellion of men always creates its own view of God that he can satisfy or that isn't so holy that he can't meet it. Then it goes on and it says not just idolatry, but it talks about sorcery. The word for sorcery is pharmakeia, where we get the word pharmacy.
Often, we think people who are involved with spirits or witchcraft, which is what another translation would say, or people who have an ability to relate to different powers that be that are out there, but it's almost always related to drug-induced illusion, psychotic episodes. They would go, and they'd have these visions, and they would call it sorcery or witchcraft. It's typically just a drug-induced vision that isn't rooted in reality at all, in order to escape the reality within.
Watch this. Then it goes to human behaviors and relationships. This is where your flesh will take you: to a false religion, to escape reality through drugs, through a perverse longing for love through some physical, fleeting sensuality that never really satisfies, and then it will take you to this. Watch.
It will take you to stuff like enmity, hatred for others instead of love for others, strife because they have what you want so you need to get it from them somehow, jealousy and covetousness, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying. All of these things it goes on to say. "Drunkenness, carousing, and things like these…" It's not an exhaustive list, but just things like this.
How many of us want those things? This is what happens when you follow the way that seems right to men. All of us don't do all of those things, and all of us don't do those things to the same level, but we all do them enough that we go, "This is not a good place. This is not the way it should be." God goes, "I know, because you're walking in the way of the world. You're walking in the way of the Enemy. You're walking in the way of your fallen, rebellious nature, and it's not good."
This is Paul's entire argument. "But those of you who know me in Christ, who have come to him, you have seen God's love expressed to you on the cross, who aren't living now according to looking at the tablet and going, 'I ain't doing that. We failed there again.' See what God has done because we've failed and know the goodness of God, the greatness of God, the kindness of God. Follow that God! Walk in the Spirit. The fruit of walking your way is going to lead to all kinds of chaos." It happens in our Suburban; it happens in our home.
Let me just say this very quickly. It says, "…those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." This is very important. There are really two major ideas here. It says, "the people who practice." The word is prassō, which we get the word practice from, which means continually devote yourself toward. If it is the normal course of your life to say, "This is who I am. This is the way God made me. This is what I'm going to do," and you practice these things, it's because you are not being led by the Spirit. "Those who are led by the Spirit," it says in Romans, "are sons of God."
In other words, all of us show up in some form or fashion in the deeds of the flesh because we still, at times, turn away from our loving Father and do what we want to do. No matter how much we've seen the goodness of our Father, we're still tempted to go our own way, be influenced by our peers, be deceived by the Enemy, and think, "God doesn't know my best right here. He doesn't know how I feel right here, and so I think it's right to go this other place."
There are outbursts of anger. There's escaping from reality through some narcotic, drug, or drunkenness. There's envying. "If God just knew I had that, I'd be happy." There's strife; there's hatred. We see these things well up, but look. If it's the practice for those things to be there in your life, it's an indication that's all you are: somebody who follows the world, follows yourself, follows the Enemy. That's troublesome.
If, on the other hand, it's an interruption… The outburst of anger in my life are interruptions to the peace. The envying, the strife, the jealousy, and the hatred are interruptions that I deal with, I repent of, and go, "That is not of Christ. I need to ask your forgiveness, make amends where possible, and get back on the course. What you just saw there was me stepping outside of the relationship with God which I hold so dear to me. I know it brought hell to this family."
Watch this. Those who practice these things will not inherit the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven is both a present reality and a future promise. How many of you have had hell in your Christian home because there have been outbursts of anger, dissensions, and strife? Sometimes, in our Suburban, the guy in the driver's seat makes it very uncomfortable while we travel down the highway. It's not a kingdom of heaven. They go, "This is really fun to be in the car with Dad, who is just a monster right now."
At other times, Dad is doing good, and there's enmity, strife, and dissension among the brothers and sisters in the backseat. I say, "Let me just tell you something. About a mile up here, we're going to pull over, and I'm going to introduce you to the kingdom of hell if you don't get it together back there. You're not going to inherit freedom in just a second." I bring consequence so they can learn to hate that.
The point is Jesus says, "That's what's going to go on with you, so live by the Spirit and it will bring peace to your marriage, peace to your home." It anticipates the fact that you are a person who is in relationship with God in Christ, indwelt with the Spirit, sealed with the Spirit, and that he loves you, and that one day, you will inherit the fullness of the reality that is to come.
Contrary to being a person who is interrupted by or a slave to the deeds of the flesh, there is the fruit, which is singular, of the Spirit. Again, this list is not exhaustive. Just like the previous one is not exhaustive, this one is not exhaustive. It says, "Against such things there is no law." What are these things? Love, joy…I could break all of these out and have a ton of fun with them…peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. "Against such things there is no law." Who wants to legislate against…?
I've never said, "Hey, look, if you guys keep loving each other back there, I'm going to put a kibosh on it. You have about five more minutes of gentleness, kindness, and joy back there, and then we're done. That's enough of that, so get it in because that's it." Are you kidding me? There is no law, no restriction against these things.
The world says, "Give me more of it," because when they see the goodness of God, they go, "I want more of God for who he really is." This is the way of God. Who would want to legislate against that? Nobody. That's why Paul is saying, "You know who God is. Be controlled by who God is and follow him. You've said he's your Lord. You've said he's good. You've said he's your Savior."
"Follow me. There's life over here. My way is love. My way is gentleness. My way is kindness. Look at the way I interacted with the weak, the poor. Look at the way I interacted with the beaten and the oppressed. Look at the way I acted with sinners. You do the same and the people of the world will look at you and go, 'You are a wholly different people.'" We'll say, "We're not holy; we have a relationship with the Holy One. What you see working out here is the power of God working in us and through us as we walk in obedience with him."
Are you getting it? You don't need to be filled with that which is empty. You need to be controlled by and sovereignly place yourself in the wisdom he has created for you to walk in. Watch this. First Corinthians 2. Some of us have been journeying there. Why are we journeying through the Bible together? Because that is where we get a reminder from our Sovereign Lord in how we should walk. We want to follow him.
The priorities, habits, and intentions of a disciple are always the same. If I was alive when Jesus was alive, I would go, "I want to be with you, Lord. I want to go where you want me to go, do what you want me to do, watch you at work, and learn from you." Guess what? That's what the Spirit has given us.
All Scripture is inspired by God, is God-breathed. It's his Spirit's gift, anchored in truth, so we can have the mind of Christ and follow him. We can be taught correctly. We can be reproved when we get it wrong. We can be corrected, and we can be trained so we can do it right. First Corinthians 2. Watch this.
Where do we get this instruction? "We do speak wisdom among those who are mature [those who have grown to understand the reality of who God is] ; a wisdom [that is] not of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away." God is not passing away. He's eternal; he's always been good.
"…but we speak God's wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written, 'THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND which HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN…'" Philosophers, teachers, talk show hosts, neighbors, friends, students, PhDs.
"'…ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM.' For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God [the things that will lead to life] , which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words [or actions] ."
"But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him…""I don't feel like that's right. It doesn't seem like it's going to work out for me." "…and he cannot understand them, because [he is not] spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one." No one is the judge of him; God's the judge of him. "For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM? But we have the mind of Christ."
Do we? Do we have the mind of Christ about money, about sex? Do we have the mind of Christ about family unity, about conflict? Do we have the mind of Christ about the way we should live? If we do, the world goes, "I want some of that, people." We go, "Come on. We're just following Jesus. The indwelling Spirit of God speaks not so much to the whereness of God in me, but to me in relationship to the God who reigns over all of us, in whom we live and move and have our being. Some live in him in rebellion, some move underneath him in rebellion, but those of us who know him hold his hand, embrace him, and follow the mind of Christ."
He says in verse 1 of chapter 3, "And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to babes in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food…""I taught you about how God dealt with your sin, your inability to respond to the law written on stone." "…for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you [this perverted church in Corinth] are not yet able, for you are still fleshly [living as if you don't know God] ."
"For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?" It was like he could jump right to Galatians 5 now and say, "But walk by the Spirit; don't walk like mere men. Walk like men who know who God is and love him and realize that his way is the way to life."
Do you guys get this? This is absolutely life changing. What I want you to know… We need to be people who say, "I'm going to be controlled by the love of God. I'm going to be controlled by the reality of the goodness of God. I see God for who he is, not some puffed up misrepresentation by man, not by the Deceiver's identification of God as some cosmic killjoy, as somebody who doesn't have my best interests in mind.
I know better. He wouldn't have died for me if he didn't have my best interests in mind. He did die for me, and God raised him because he paid the penalty of my sin, which is death, as evidence it had been paid so that life could come, so that I could walk in relationship with my living King, who has not left me as an orphan, but since he was glorified, he sent me the Spirit who has revealed to me the Word of God so I can know the mind of God, so I can meditate on those words and yield to them."
You want to be holy? Trust and obey. You don't need to go to a revival. You need to revive your heart, and you need to say, "God, I need to write your Word in my heart. That Word that is written on my heart, I need to yield to it. When I yield to it, guess what happens? I am a lover who has joy in all circumstances because I know that God is sovereign even over rebellion in this world. There will be a day when he will make all things right.
Even though my circumstances don't make me happy, I know what is happening is that God is revealing his goodness in me and my hope that is to come by making others curious so they, too, might have peace with God and the peace of God through Jesus Christ. I have peace. I'm a person who reflects security in the midst of an insecure world. I am an individual who is kind."
One of the things my kids do, and I've tried to do for the last little bit… That little ad in Gatorade. "You cannot endure, you cannot run long, you cannot be a world-class athlete unless Gatorade is in you." Right? What we have done along the way is we have just said, "That's what the Scripture says. Unless I'm in Christ, unless I'm in step with the Spirit, being led by the Spirit…" Sometimes when kindness is not identified, we look at each other and go, "Is he in you? Because it doesn't look like you're running the race with endurance."
Is he in you? Yes, he is, man. You can run with wings like eagles, and the world goes, "Who are these people?" We're the people of God, called by his name, loved by his Son, who follow him in submission and with passion, for his glory and our good, that he might be revealed to you. Amen?
Father, may we be people who walk with you, who follow you, and who are led by you. For your glory and our good I pray, amen.
If you don't know Christ and you're not in step with his Spirit, would you come and let us know how we can introduce you to him? Would you check that box so we can tell you how to follow Christ and live with him? You have a great week of worship.
Performance-based acceptance vs. acceptance-based performance. Galatians, more than in any other in the Bible, explains the difference between the two. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul makes it clear that we can never perform our way into a relationship with Christ, and that the law was in place as a demonstration of God?s standards, rather than a means for us to earn our salvation. In short, Galatians paints a vivid picture of why we all are in need of a Savior.<br /> Examining chapters 5 and 6 of Galatians, Todd Wagner explains why bondage to legalism and performance is so dangerous to the Christian life. And what being truly free from the need to earn God's love looks like, how we live it out, and how it will ultimately bless us and honor Christ.