Galatians

Spirit Walk

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There’s a treasure trove of Godly wisdom that Paul shares with the churches throughout the New Testament. He often expounds on the character of God, teaches us how to follow Jesus, and warns against potential pitfalls in our walk. He also encourages us with words that help us in our effort to live a Godly life in a fallen world. We need this kind of wisdom because whether we want to admit it or not, the flesh can be exceedingly weak. To battle the flesh, with it’s temptations and sinful desires, we should heed Paul’s words in Galatians chapter 5, verse 16, which says:  

“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” 

Notice that he didn’t say that we will not desire the sinful nature. He says that if we live by the Spirit, we will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature - or fall into sin. He goes on to remind us that the flesh and the Spirit are always in conflict. If so, how can we insure that the Spirit will always win out? Well, in verse 18, he encourages us to be led by the Spirit. What does it mean to live by the Spirit or to be led by the Spirit? I believe that it is a conscious effort on our part to follow his prompting, to focus our thoughts on heavenly things, and to remember that since we belong to Jesus, the Bible tells us that we have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. If we walk in step with the Spirit we are able to bare the fruit of the Spirit, which is: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. It is not by our willpower that we can accomplish this, but only if we are in step with the Spirit. And to be in step with the Spirit involves remaining close enough to him that we can feel, sense or hear his prompting - and when we do, to obey him.

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Paul says that we need to “live by the Spirit, so that we will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” To overcome the flesh requires the aid of the Holy Spirit living inside of us. Our nature is to sin, and our willpower, or flesh, is weak. We will fail more often than we will succeed on our own. So we need to walk in step with the Spirit. We need to daily connect with our God, focus our thoughts on him, continually pray to him, and trust his leading. He can break strongholds, protect us from the evil one, and be our strength when we are weak. Walking in step with the Spirit is a daily challenge. But the life of a Christian is to take up our cross daily and follow Jesus. The good thing is that we don’t have to do it on our own. We have the Holy Spirit to help us.

Enslaved Again

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In Galatians, Paul writes a letter pretty much chastising the Galatians for going back to practicing traditions from the old law of Moses even after they learned about Jesus and the new covenant. Despite this new knowledge, they chose to go back in “bondage”, so to speak, to the way things used to be done. It says in Galatians 4:8-9:

"Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God – or rather are known by God – how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?"

As I mentioned earlier, this portion of scripture is in reference to the law of Moses, but I think we could also consider how it might be relevant to sin as well. Paul says, “how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?” Like putting the law behind us and turning to the new covenant, we also need to put our sin behind us and turn to freedom in Christ. And as we do not want to be enslaved by the law, we also don’t want to be enslaved by sin all over again. So I encourage you, to remember what Jesus promises; freedom in himself. Chapter 5 verse 1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” I think that says it all.

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Remember what Paul said to the Galatians and try to apply it to the Law of Moses as well as to our view on sin. It says, “how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?” And we as believers should respond with a resounding “no”. It can be difficult to stand in the face of sin, but we are encouraged to stand firm and to not let ourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. I think it would do us all well to think on that verse for a while and see if the Holy Spirit might bring it to life in our lives.

Crucified Flesh

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Do you ever wonder why Jesus tells us that we need to take up our cross daily and follow him? I believe it is that we need to be reminded that our life is not our own. That our desires, whether fleshly or otherwise, need to conform to his desires. That we no longer live for ourselves but we take on the mission that Jesus has set out for us. When we take up our cross and follow him, we realize that by doing so, we prove that we belong to him. And as such, Paul reminds us in Galatians 5:24:

"Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires."

The verse just prior to this one talks about the fruits of the spirit. And one of the fruits of the spirit is self-control. All the others are things that we are to do, to exude or to practice. But self-control is something that helps us avoid sin. Self-control doesn’t mean willpower. I think it means discipline. The discipline of filling our minds and our hearts with the things of God. The bible tells us to think on heavenly things. And I believe the more that we do, the more our hearts and minds fall in alignment with the Spirit and the more successful we are in crucifying the sinful nature with its passions and desires.

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“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires”. We can only accomplish this if we take up our cross daily, if we know that we are not our own, and if we keep in step with the Spirit. As a matter of fact, the very next verse says, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” To keep in step with the Spirit means that we have to be on the same page as him. His page, not ours. So, I encourage you to remember this verse and to make it real in your life. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.

Do Good

Would you say that you’re someone who tries to make the most of your time, money and energy? And do you gauge how well you’re doing by your return on investment? In other words; do the good results you get for your efforts indicate how effectively you’ve spent your time, money or energy? For the most part, that is good, solid and wise thinking… but not always. Sometimes we should do things just because they are the right thing to do even if we can’t see a result. Sometimes we need to just be obedient, and do good because that is what believers should do. Galatians 6 verses 9 and 10 says:

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers."

If you’ve ever been good to someone and they take advantage of you, or if you feel your efforts were unappreciated or ineffective, I think this verse is for you. Paul tells the Galatians not to become weary in doing good, because at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we don’t give up. So, if you are in that place where you’ve been helping someone or doing good on behalf of someone and you don’t see a return on your investment so to speak, don’t give up. At the proper time you may reap a harvest for your efforts. I encourage you to look for opportunities to do good to all people, and don’t give up even when you might not see the results you’ve been hoping for or expecting.

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For a long time, and with the right motives, you may have been praying for someone, helping someone, showing kindness to someone or just doing good for someone, but have not seen the results you’ve been hoping for. Paul encourages us to not give up, to not become weary in doing good because you will reap a harvest if you don’t give up. I’ve seen amazing things happen in the lives of people that I thought would never respond to the gospel, but they eventually did because someone never gave up on them. They continued to show love and they continued to do good. If you’re in that place, encourage you to do the same.

Don't Compare

Do you ever find yourself comparing your Christian walk with other believers? Do you think in your heart that another believer is more righteous than you, or that you are more righteous than them? Do you compare your good deeds, faithful church attendance, bible reading or prayer life with others? Do you judge others who have fallen into sin, or are acting in a way that you deem as “unchristian-like” behavior? Paul teaches us to redirect those thoughts from others, and use that energy to examine ourselves. Galatians chapter 6 verse 4 says: 

"Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else,"

Christianity is certainly an outward faith. But in many regards the walk takes place in our hearts. The kind of “pride” Paul is talking about here is not pride that would exalt ourselves, but pride in knowing that we are right with God, and also remembering that your ability to obey comes from the aid of the Holy Spirit. This kind of pride leads to peace, not sin. It is human nature to compare ourselves with others. Whether we realize it or not, we compare our jobs, families, possessions, physical appearance, and more with those we come in contact with. Whether that is good or bad, I can’t say. But I can say that our Christian walk should not be a competition because that is what Paul says. So I encourage you, to run your own race. Yes, we should care about others, we should disciple others, and we should correct others in the church, but we shouldn’t compare our walk with others. Because that kind of comparison only leads to unholy pride or condemnation.

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“Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else.” Paul says that we need to test our own actions. Consider how your walk is going compared to the word of God, not compared to someone else. If we are able to examine ourselves in light of God’s word, we can take holy pride in our walk if it is in line with scriptures, realizing that our success is not our own, but it is because of the power and the aid of the Holy Spirit. That is why Paul can say that if he boasts he boasts in the Lord.