Galatians 5:19-21 (NLT)
“When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.”
In yesterday’s post, we were reminded that the flesh and the Spirit are in constant opposition. They simply lead us in two very different directions. Paul, the writer of Galatians, goes into more detail here and in the verses we will cover tomorrow about just how opposite those opposites are. In case we were unsure of exactly what types of things “flesh” means, here we have an extensive list. It is tempting to read this list and think, “Well, I don’t think I’m that bad…” And right there, before we’ve even had time to really soak in all these verses have to say, we’ve compared ourselves to others and excused ourselves from having to look inward.
Now, I’ve never been the “wild parties” type, and I’ve been a Christian since age 5. However, when we gloss over verses like this with a cursory glance, it contributes to the very thing Jesus came to abolish: an “I think I’m okay” attitude. Jesus made the case pretty clearly that none of us can do this on our own. Our flesh is not a comparison scale, as if our ability to not murder anyone is really doing well for us. Sorry, but we don’t get to gloss over our flesh just because we haven’t done something really bad. We can’t make a list of rules tailored to all the things we don’t struggle with and say, “If you can manage to hold the line here at my standard, then you get to count as a ‘good Christian.'” This kind of thinking is exactly how the evangelical Christian subculture has developed a lot of really problematic tendencies including judging outsiders (something the Bible tells us specifically not to do in 1 Corinthians 5:12).
Okay, so if we lean into these verses and look closely, what do we see? How about instead of only reading the flesh-sins I’m not doing, I read only the ones I am guilty of? Confession time: for me that has included impurity, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division and envy. 9 out of 15. How is it that I was ready to dismiss a list, over half of which I have been guilty of in my lifetime, just because I have managed to not engage in 6 of them?
Now let’s not forget the point of this whole chapter: we no longer live under a whole bunch of rules and it has already been established that we cannot be perfect. The list in these verses is just some examples, but there are so many more things he could have listed (which is clear by his “etc, etc, etc” type statement at the end of the list). The list is not meant to make us feel badly. That was already the problem with the law. No, this list is meant to help us understand freedom.
Zoom in on the key word in the last verse: inherit. Sin robs us of our inheritance. If I knew that I were due for a big inheritance and I found out someone or something was going to rob me of it, I would fight back pretty hard on that. And this is Paul’s point: a whole bunch of rules can’t save you, and in fact when you focus on the rules your flesh leads you down a harmful road that robs you of the freedom God is longing to give you. You’ll never get to God relying on your own strength to save you. You know what your own strength gets you? Death and destruction.
Here’s your freedom for today: if you want to find true freedom, it helps to get mad at the right thing.
Here’s your freedom for today: if you want to find true freedom, it helps to get mad at the right thing. You don’t need to be mad at God for taking away all your “fun,” and you don’t need to be mad at yourself for making a whole bunch of stupid mistakes. But get as mad as you want at Satan and the power of the flesh to rob you blind. Since the flesh and the Spirit are complete opposition, the more you deny your flesh the stronger the Spirit-power in you becomes. Instead of feeding the flesh, like leaving food out for a mangy stray cat you don’t even want, feed your spirit. What are some ways you can feed your spirit today?