Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost: Keeping In Step With The Spirit
I say then, walk in the spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.
For the flesh lusteth against the spirit: and the spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary one to another: so that you do not the things that you would.
But if you are led by the spirit, you are not under the law.
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
And they that are Christ's, have crucified their flesh, with the vices and concupiscences.
If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
Let us not be made desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying on another. [Galatians 5:16-26]
Our worst enemy is the flesh. Yesterday the Church celebrated the feast day of the great theologian Saint Augustine. In 397 A.D. Augustine decided to write a new kind of autobiography. Up to this time, conversion stories typically accented the virtuous and heroic acts of the individual and gave readers the impression of a complete turnaround and perfect life after conversion. Augustine’s story would be quite different. In his Confessions, Augustine would portray himself as a soul that struggles to find truth and fights to dislodge itself from sinful patterns. Augustine’s self-portrait would be one of a sick man still in need of healing rather than a man who has arrived at perfection. Saint Augustine was in the habit of praying "Lord, deliver me from that evil man.....myself."
It has been said that “All the fire that the devil could bring from hell could do us little harm were there not such combustible material and fuel within ourselves.” We sit on a veritable magazine of powder – this old fleshly nature, this unregenerate self. Paul described it in that 17th verse of our lesson today: "For the flesh lusteth against the spirit: and the spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary one to another: so that you do not the things that you would." [Galatians 5:17]. Our worst enemy is the old self, the old nature, the flesh. Our worst sins are sins against the spirit.
Cain hated Abel because "God had respect unto Abel’s offering: but unto Cain and to his offering, God had not respect". So Cain looked at his brother Abel, and he hated him because God had respect unto him....sins against the spirit.
Joseph was hated by his brethren because his father, Jacob, had made for the lad a coat of many colors. And his father loved him and was good to him, and his brethren hated Joseph because of that goodness....sins against the spirit.
Moses. When God said, "Honor Me and speak to the rock", Moses, in great anger and wrath, lifted up his rod and said, "If it’s water that you want, then I will give you water!" And he struck the rock with his rod in anger and in wrath...sins against the spirit.
Saul sought and his heart was eaten out with envy and jealousy as he heard the women of Israel saying, "Saul hath slain his thousands, but David his tens of thousands" ...sins against the spirit.
Jonah bought his ticket to far away and opposite Tarshish. For when God said, "Preach the gospel to Nineveh," Jonah said in his heart, "I’ll go over there and preach the gospel to Nineveh and they’ll repent and God will spare them. But I want every last one of them burned up with fire". When finally the fish got through with him and he condescended to go to Nineveh, wow, did he preach! What a vengeance, what a fire, what a fury, what a scorching in the message that he brought: "Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be destroyed! Hallelujah! God, burn them all up!" That’s the way he preached.
Well, he scared the Ninevites to death. They all repented and turned to God, and the Lord said to Jonah, "I’m not going to burn them up. I’ve decided to spare them". And Jonah sat down under a gourd vine and hated God and hated the Ninevites...sins against the spirit.
When the prodigal came back home and his father rejoiced, "My son who was dead is alive again, and he was lost and is found", and the father rejoiced, the elder brother looked at him and said, "This brother – no, this son of my father – I’ll not even call him my brother who’s wasted his substance with harlots. Look, look! I never at any time transgressed my father’s commandment. I worked long and hard here without error or without spending your money and resources all these years, and look, look!" And he despised his brother and hated him...sins against the spirit.
Again we read from todays lesson, Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
Thank God for the next word, Thank the Lord for this dividing one syllable word "but" – "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law." Look at the beginning of that verse again. “But the fruit of the Spirit" – singular; We have the plural "works of the flesh" – divisive, and contrary, that war against us, But the fruit, singular, whatever it is, is still just the same. If it’s the fruit of the Spirit, call it by any name – "love." Call it "joy." Call it "peace." Call it "goodness." Call it "faith." Call it "meekness." Call it "temperance." Call it anything. It’s the same thing. Singular – it’s the fruit of the Spirit. Jesus said “That which is born of the flesh, is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit, is spirit.” The fruit of the Spirit doesn’t come by natural generation. Titus tells us that it comes “by the laver of regeneration, and renovation of the Holy Ghost; Whom he hath poured forth upon us abundantly, through Jesus Christ our Saviour”. It comes from the quickening power of the Spirit of God in our hearts.
There’s no child of God that does not feel that conflict in his soul – the spirit against the flesh and the flesh against the spirit, but the Spirit always has its witness and always has its fruit.
Divided in to three parts here, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy and peace. That’s God-ward. Secondly, The fruit of the Spirit is longsuffering, gentleness, goodness. That's toward our brothers and sisters in Christ. The last is what God has done in our relationships to our own spirits: faith, meekness, temperance. Some of us have a natural inclination to be proud and lifted up, but the Spirit is there teaching us humility and meekness. Some of us have a natural disposition to be intemperate in our lives. We sort of move or flow in those directions. But the Spirit is there nonetheless pulling, teaching.
“If you are led by the Spirit you are not under law.”. In using the passive voice (“If you are led”) Saint Paul emphasizes the Spirit’s work, not ours. The Spirit is not a leader like the pace car in the “Daytona 500.” He is a leader like a locomotive on a train. We do not follow in our strength. We are led by his power. So “walk in the Spirit” means stay hooked up to the divine source of power and go wherever he leads.
There are many ways in life that the Holy Spirit uses to lead us but I let me just give you just four simple but important ways.
1. Pray About Everything
Praying should be our first instinct in all situations “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6). Not only does prayer keep our focus on the mind of Christ but it allows the Spirit to have full access to every area of our life – including the regular things we do every day.
To put it simply: walking in the Spirit on a daily basis means talking to Him about every little thing in your day!
2. Don’t Stop Him
Allowing fleshly behaviors or selfish ambitions to motivate how we act and what we do in a day can quench the Spirit’s outflow in our life – both in us and coming out of us. It isn’t that the Spirit has a power switch that we can turn on and off. But He can be Extinguished (1 Thessalonians 5:19). We must remember that the Spirit is able to grieve (Ephesians 4:30). According to God’s Word, our flesh is contrary to the spirit (Galatians 5:17). If we allow our flesh (that selfish part of us) to dominate our thoughts and our conduct, we will silence the Spirit’s gentle flow in our life and stop Him from showcasing His fruit in us.
3. Spend Time with Him
It’s important to know the thoughts and interests of the Holy Spirit so that we can heed His guidance. He’ll direct us in His still small voice but if we aren’t about to recognize it (and don’t bother enough to listen for it), we will miss His plans entirely. This is why we must cultivate a minute by minute intimacy with Him. We will not only hear the Spirit clearly, but we will become more familiar with how He speaks and be in tune with the way He operates.
4. Just Say Yes
The Father has plans for our lives and He’s sure to reveal them to us.through His Holy Spirit. In order to walk in the spirit throughout the day (and night), we must be constantly giving the “not my will, but yours be done” response when the Holy Spirit speaks.
The Holy Spirit will always show us the way we should go and the Fathers desires for us no matter where we are or what we’re doing – we just have to say yes to Him every time. So let the Holy Spirit have the reins to your life and you we will find yourself truly harnessed to the will of God.
“I say then, walk in the spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16)