Freedom comes with choice; walk with God. Part I

Freedom comes with choice; walk with God. Part I

Life is full of choices.  The Apostle Paul set out clear choices in his Letter to the Galatians - live free by grace for labor and die under the law… the choice is yours.

Galatians 5: 13-26

Paul sets forth 2 choices which we can follow after in life: The Flesh or Spirit.  All too often we can stumble through life and find ourselves down some rather dark alleys and it can be very difficult to back out of them. 

As Christians we have a responsibility to take charge of our freedom in Christ.  Being careful not abuse freedom, we must know what to do with it; it’s not a proverbial blank check to sin.  Do not allow the grace of God to serve as a rope that when taken and miss-used one can end up hanging themselves.  Paul writes, don’t allow freedom to be an opportunity for the flesh BUT through love serve one another.  Turn from an inward “me-focus” to an outward “other-focus.”

Let’s pause for a moment and consider exactly what Paul means when he uses the word “flesh” in a negative fashion.  Simply put, the phrase “the flesh” (as Paul uses it) is a metaphor for a selfish and self-centered focus in life opposed to a godly focus.  The fleshly focus is over against a Christ-like focus which follows Jesus who said He came to give His life a ransom for many – to serve and not be served. Jesus is the ultimate example of an “other-focused” life.

When thinking about following the law – Paul appeals to Jesus’ new commandment (John 13: 34-35) to serve one another in love.  To fail to serve one another in love leads to a sobering result… Selfish legalism, living by the law creates a space for pride to flourish (comparing ourselves against one another) and results in broken relationships.  Biting and devouring one another – consuming one another there are no winners.

Walk (the course of one’s life) by the Spirit (under the authority and responding to God) and you’ll not carry out the desire of flesh (living for yourself).

Paul moves to contrast the works of the flesh – against the fruit of the Spirit…

Works of the flesh include both actions and attitudes that reveal the heart of a person.  This list of works isn’t exhaustive and identifies both religious and non-religious people alike. Religious people who would never think themselves capable of attending an orgy can find themselves easily caught up in envy, jealousy and factions.  God doesn’t make the distinctions we commonly do, seeing sex and drink as more sinful that jealousy and ambition; it’s all the same to God. 

Paul warns those who live by/practice these will not inherit the Kingdom of God.  Paul’s pointing to those who make a practice (repeatedly as if without choice) rather than those infrequent and repented of lapses.  This is the person who is not battling against these desires.  This does not mean that a Christian who sins loses their salvation.  The person who is struggling against sin can take comfort in knowing they are in a good fight.  Some people may struggle with temptation and relapses the better part of their whole lives.  We in the church need to rally around people who fight against sin and are doing their best to follow Jesus.  A by-product of legalism is we can write one another off in the church way too easily. 

Everyone struggles with something.  Grace, mercy and compassion need to be part of a healthy church family and practiced in real time.   

This isn’t meant to be a scare tactic for those who know Christ but to shake off complacency among Christians who can just fall into sin via laziness of thought and behavior.

Freedom comes with choices.  The wise Christian is the one who carefully considers which way they are heading in life – are they following their own selfish desires or the desire of God?  The ramifications of which one chooses to follow affect the people closest to them. 

This week I want you to read through the works of the flesh.  Consider that this isn’t an exhaustive listing and realize it captures some of the highs and lows of the selfishness that crouches within each of us.  This is no time to throw stones at one another.  We all are tempted by something. 

1.     Read through the list and inventory anything that may be in your life.  Has it been there for a week, a month, a day or a lifetime?

2.     Pray and name this work of selfishness (flesh) and sin that is in your life.  Get real.

3.     Ask God to give you the strength and wisdom to turn away from it.  Ask for forgiveness from God if this is a sin you have indulged.

4.     Ask someone in your life you trust to help you as needed.  Help you by keeping you accountable.  Help you by taking you to clinical/professional help with what may be an addiction.

Don’t do life alone.  You were never meant to face freedom alone.  Freedom includes responsibility for your choices; choose to follow God.

Vince Armfield