Being right with God, being right with others, and being right with ourselves—it something we want. Our righteousness begins in God, but when it comes to everyday life, the reality is a lot messier. It is no wonder we’re praying for “an increase of faith, hope, and charity” this week and that we want God’s grace to help us love what He commands.
Paul wrote to the Christians in Asia Minor to help them to understand how God was bringing about His righteousness in their lives. It is the same thing He wants to do in your life today—Walk in the Spirit.
First, we need to know that there is a war going on. Paul tells us that
The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other. Galatians 5.17
We need to remember that Christians aren’t anti-flesh; things of the flesh, the body, aren’t bad. Jesus took on our flesh and God made us: body, mind, and soul. It is a question of what we are following, the Spirit or flesh. We need the Spirit of God leading us if we are going to righteous, loving God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and our neighbor as ourselves. The Spirit will lead you in the path of righteousness, into the eternal goodness of God’s Kingdom.
Paul says, Look at where the flesh leads you and the quality of what it produces. It’s a long list of actions that have no future and produce nothing of value in your life. Every lust of the flesh is a poor imitation of what is eternal and good when it is in God. If you’re not letting the Spirit lead, you end up with a cheap, knock-off, instead of a work of art. Let’s look at the list:
What does it look like beyond the immediate gratification? A long series of broken relationship with no hope for the future.
It is about sex, but about care, help, building up, and grow of the husband or wife. It is life long. It is a glimpse of life in eternity in the openness, safe in its lasting nature. It produces new life. It is creative in a real way.
Sexual immorality is a cheap knockoff of a Rolex that doesn’t keep time and has nothing but sparkle if you don’t look too closely.
We may come up with good reasons to separate ourselves from one another. There is a separation that occurs from right and wrong, the wheat and the chaff. It is all about our being right. Our having the right faith, the right interpretation, the right way to worship God. Division is about our choosing God. Communion is about God choosing us.
Common Union; Communion with God; Communion with one another in Christ. It begins and ends in God. All error and wrong are put right, reconciled to the true reality in God. Communion isn’t about my being right and others being wrong. Communion is about being found in God. Walking in the Spirit doesn’t lead to divisions but to communion with God and with one another in Christ. It has nothing to do with my opinion, my judgment, my anything except being found in Christ, in the righteousness of God. Division is just an appearance of being in the right. Communion is about being in the righteousness of God for eternity.
Every one of the desires of the flesh is short term and short sighted. Walking in the Spirit produces things that are truly good. Paul lists the fruits of the Spirit that are produced in our lives as we walk by the Spirit.
Justin Martyr, who died in 165AD, spoke about walking in the Spirit:
If [the Christian] has the knowledge of God and of His Christ, and keeps the everlasting decrees, he is circumcised with the good and useful circumcision, and is a friend of God, and God rejoices in his gifts and offerings. (Justin, Dialogue with Trypho, 28)
Walking in the Spirit isn’t the mere appearance, the circumcision in the flesh, but in Christ we find ourselves in the eternal righteousness of God. When we walk in, when we keep the “everlasting decrees”, God’s Word becomes visible in our heart, so that we find we are living a covenant life, a life of promise that is good and useful.
The remarkable point that Justin makes is that if we walk in the Spirit we become “a friend of God.” We become not just servants of God, not just disciple of Jesus, but men and women who participate, work beside, and share in what God is doing. Jesus said it, but do we really understand it’s importance for us.
No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends. John 15.15
What an awesome thing—to be God’s friend, a partner and companion of Jesus! And God rejoices in what you do as His friend, in your gifts and offerings. In what you do and contribute in working together with Jesus, God rejoices!
Paul is asking, Do you see what God has asked you to share in? Can you not see how empty and pathetic life is when you let the flesh direct your life? Jesus asks, were not ten cleansed of their leprosy? Is the only one who sees and understands the gift they’ve been given this Samaritan, an occasional Christmas or Easter Christian? How much more should the Christians reading Paul’s letter understand the great work that God is doing? They should be those who see the great and wonderful thing that happens when you walk in the Spirit.
Our prayer this week is for us to have sufficient “faith, hope, and love” to walk in the Spirit, to be a “friend of God.” God wants to rejoice in what you do as His friend, in the gifts and offerings of your life.