PASTOR DON'S CHRISTIAN ED NOTES
Why Canadian Lawmakers Can Never Transform Human Hearts
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Sunday, February 28, 2010 -

Galatians 5:19-26 - “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, [20] idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, [21] 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. [22] But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, [23] gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. [24] And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. [25] If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. [26] Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”

1) ALL THROUGH THE BOOK OF GALATIANS PAUL HAS SHOWN THAT THE FLESH MANIFESTS ITSELF IN TWO WAYS, NOT JUST ONE

This point is key in understanding the whole book of Galatians. First, the flesh manifests itself as rebellion to God’s laws. This is what happened in the garden of Eden. Second, the flesh manifests itself when, as a sinner, I am unwilling to humbly depend on God’s mercy and promise of righteousness in Jesus Christ. Before the Fall there was only one way to sin. After the Fall there are two ways to sin: disobedience to God’s laws and proudly attempting to pay God back for our sins on our own terms, with our own religions.

What Paul does in the book of Galatians is study the second form of sin (proud attempts to earn God’s favor apart from Christ Jesus) first (in chapters 1-4) and the first form of sin (rebellion against His moral laws) second (in chapters 5-6).

2) PAUL CALLS THE VICES OF THE FLESH “WORKS” (OR DEEDS) AND THE VIRTUES OF THE SPIRIT “FRUIT” - WHY?

Galatians 5:19-22 - “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, [20] idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, [21] 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. [22] But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness....”

I used to think that Paul used the term “works” for the flesh because these represented my own efforts apart from the help from the Holy Spirit, and he used the term “fruit” to describe the virtues of the Spirit because he was trying to picture the power of the Spirit to accomplish these things, not my own efforts. The problem I have with this interpretation is that it doesn’t ring true to experience. It takes no work on my part at all to manifest the “works” of the flesh. I can easily become impatient and angry and greedy in a heart-beat with no effort at all, while being loving to my enemies and selfless in my deeds takes a great deal of effort and discipline.

I think the answer to these terms lies in a different direction:

a) Paul calls the vices of the flesh “work,” not because they require no effort on our part, but because they are all attempts to pay back some perceived debt to the flesh.

Let me explain. These vices stem from a sense of entitlement, of personal rights being abused, of scores that need to be evened out. This is why people get angry. They feel they have been sold short and mistreated. This is why people envy others. Deep inside, they feel they are just as entitled to what others have, and resent them having it. All of these vices are called “works,” not because they take so much effort. They don’t. They are called “works” because each one of them, in its own way, is birthed in the attempt of the flesh to have God, others, and the world itself pay the wages of satisfaction it feels it rightfully deserves.

b) The virtues of the Spirit is called “fruit,” not because it are effortless. It is not. It are called fruit because, like fruit on a branch, the movement of life is from the inside out.

This is so important. The fruit of the Spirit are called “fruit” because they are rooted in a sense of grace received and thankfulness to God, which overflows in outward loving obedience and service rather than the frantic inward pull of the unfulfilled cravings of the flesh. Remember, it’s the difference between a vacuum cleaner and an overflowing fountain.

3) TO CONTINUE WALKING IN THE SPIRIT IT IS IMPORTANT TO CONCENTRATE ON THE TWO WAYS OF BEING CRUCIFIED WITH CHRIST

Galatians 2:20 - “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Galatians 5:24 - “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

In the 2:20 reference ours is a passive role of faith. In 5:24 ours is an active role of slaying the dragon of self. And it is imperative that these never become blurred or merged in our thinking. One is the crucifixion of justification. The other is the crucifixion of sanctification. Certainly the two are intimately related. But they are not identical. The second can never happen without the former. Nor the former without the latter. The New Testament never teaches that it is enough to merely love and trust Jesus. That is very important, to be sure. But the Spirit will never slay the life of the flesh for you. He will, however, be faithful to empower you once you make that decision.