Walking in the Spirit-Pt. 1
“Walking in the Spirit—Pt. I”
Series: Set Free To Be Free (Galatians)
Rev. Todd A. Linn, PhD
Henderson’s First Baptist Church, Henderson
Please take your Bibles and open to Galatians, chapter 5. And let me say while you are finding that, that I am looking forward to this evening’s service. This is the last Sunday of the month and that means that we are having in our evening service our monthly “Prayer Gathering.” Last Sunday of every month we take time as a congregation to worship and pray together. Tonight we’ll be praying in different ways, some leading in corporate prayer, praying for others, praying in groups. And we’ll be praying for the efforts of our church to reach out beyond our walls, praying for community evangelistic ministry like our Woodsview Apartments outreach, and praying for our schools—students, teachers, administrators. Prayer Gathering. Tonight at six.
Have you found your place in Galatians 5? We’re in a series of messages through the book of Galatians, verse-by-verse, through the six chapters. Our series is entitled “Set Free to BE Free” and it really is my prayer and hope that this is precisely what happens to every single one of us during this study—that we will know the joy of Christian freedom.
I want to share an image with you, a picture, before we study the passage. I believe the Spirt led me to think through this metaphor that I trust will be helpful to us. Again, I so want every message from the pulpit to help souls. It’s not about preaching a “good sermon” or giving helpful anecdotes or even hoping we’ll all have a good time together. I really want to bring the gospel to bear on every situation we face every day of our lives. And this is a matter of life and death, bondage and freedom. So I hope this helps.
You have fallen into the ocean. And the waves have carried you far away from shore. And you are swimming frantically to save your life. Totally exhausted and depleted of all energy. Imagine I come and yell from the shoreline loud enough for you to hear me. And I yell: “Swim harder! You can do it! Work harder at it! Do it better!” That doesn’t give you any real power to do it. You are totally fatigued, depleted of all strength, enervated and exhausted by your failed attempts to swim. You are sinking and you are powerless to raise your arms even one more time. So my command to “Swim harder” will never help.
BUT, if I sail out towards you on a ship and throw you a lifeline and pull you up into the ship. You are safe. You couldn’t do it yourself. Help came from someone who came to you; threw you a lifeline and you received it.
Now you probably know where I am going with this. The gospel is the lifeline that pulls you into the ship. But that’s not the primary reason I’m sharing this metaphor. Most of you have already received the lifeline of the gospel of Jesus Christ and have been pulled into the safety and salvation of the ship. Most of you.
In fact, let me just as an aside speak to those of you who have not. There is no other lifeline than the lifeline of the gospel of Christ. The Bible says in Acts 4:12, “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we MUST be saved” than the name of Jesus Christ. He is not merely “a” way to be saved, He is the only way to be saved, John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes unto the Father, except by Me.” 1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.” Just one way. Jesus Christ.
So if you have never repented or turned from your sin and self and grabbed hold of the lifeline of the gospel, salvation through Jesus Christ, repent and receive Him this morning. Honestly, there is no more important decision you will ever make in your entire life. You will die. Wisdom is found in those who are prepared. Turn to Christ and believe, receive Him as Lord and identify with Him through baptism. At the end of our worship service, come forward while we are responding to our Lord through song, come and say, “I have decided to follow Jesus.” It’s remarkable, really. When you come making that decision, you do so only because He first reached out to you. He comes to you and you say, “Yes.” That’s the only way to be saved. You have to receive Jesus Christ as Lord in the same way you have to grab hold of that lifeline when your flailing about in the water. Turn to Christ.
The majority of us in the room profess to having already received Christ. I say this only because I often ask you all to raise your hand if you are followers of Christ and most of you raise your hands.
This metaphor of the lifeline is applicable not just at the point of your salvation, but at every moment of your now newly saved lives. The lifeline has power not just at the initial point of your getting saved, but every day of your life. Here’s what I mean; it’s like this:
If you are feeling like you’re not a very loving person, the answer is not to “try harder” or “love more” or “Be more loving.” Do you hear the way those statements sound? They are imperatives, commands that really are only as helpful as the harsh command to “swim harder” when you are wholly incapable of swimming another stroke.
Often in the Christian life we are tempted to forget that the lifeline of the gospel that brought about our initial salvation is the same lifeline we need every moment of every day. If I feel I am not loving others as I should, the answer is not to “try harder” or “Be a more loving person.” That is like trying to drum up some kind of strength within me to do something I cannot do. In a word it it is legalism, it is trying to obey a command without thinking about and looking to the lifeline.
Rather, when I feel I am not loving others as I should, the answer is not to “try harder” or “Be more loving,” it is, instead, to look to the lifeline again; to look to Christ. I look to Jesus who is my lifeline through the saving power of the gospel, the continuously saving, life-giving power of the gospel. When I am not loving others as I should, rather than looking within, I look to Christ and I see Him dying for my inability to love as I should. I see Jesus on the cross. And I see Him raised again. And I think about His love for me. That God died for my inability to love others as I should and has forgiven me of all failed attempts to love properly. And what happens? My heart softens, it melts. My love for Jesus Christ grows as I feel His love for me. And now—now!—I can love others as I should.
It wasn’t that I “tried harder” and sort of “grit my teeth” and “pushed through.” Rather, I looked to Christ and felt His love afresh. Then, basking in that love, I look to others and love them as I am loved. Ephesians 4:32, “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” You see how Paul directs our gaze to the cross? It is only as I think about “God in Christ forgiving me,” loving me, being kind to me—that I am able to forgive, love, and be kind to others.
This picture of going to the lifeline regularly is what I pray we’ll each remember. We go to Jesus, we go to the gospel, not just once when we initially placed our faith in Christ. But we go to the gospel regularly throughout each day. We live, moment-by-moment, in the power of the gospel. This is freedom.
See as we look down to our Bibles this morning we’re going to be reading about a lot of things we shouldn’t do. There is a list we’re going to go through. It’s not meant to be an exhaustive list, but a representative list; a list of a number of sins that flow from wrong desires, desires Paul calls “lusts of the flesh.” And these “lusts of the flesh” may lead to “works of the flesh,” these many sins listed from verse 19 forward.
If we don’t think about the gospel, we may just read the list and feel only the sting of its condemnation: “Don’t do this. Try harder not to do that.” And so on. But we will never know true victory and freedom from the bondage of these sins without regularly looking to Jesus and drawing upon the lifeline of the gospel.
Now, keep that picture in mind throughout our study this morning and next week, as well. Okay? Alright, let me pray for our study this morning
• Pray: “Dear God, help us understand Your Word today. Holy Spirit, be our teacher as
we listen and think. Work in our heads and hearts to make us more like Jesus, in whose name we pray, amen.”
Galatians chapter 5. Picking up again at verse 16, I want to review what we studied last time as we talked about the reality of the “Battle Within.” Last time we talked about this very real battle that every Christian has every single day. We talked about how it is like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. We have desires that are both good and bad.
Christians are saved from the penalty of sin and the power of sin. But the presence of sin remains. Recall the phrase: “Sin remains, but it no longer reigns.” Its power has been broken. So while we still battle sin, it no longer reigns as a dominating principle or power. We look forward to the final state known as glorification, when the very presence of sin will be eliminated and obliterated forever! Until then, we live in an ongoing state of sanctification, growth in the Lord, experiencing greater victories over the power of sin as we learn to walk in the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is mentioned several times in this section, seven to be exact, from verses 16 and following. He is the one who makes the living out of our Christian lives possible. Christ sets us free, but the Spirit empowers us to live and walk in that freedom. So Paul says in verse 16: “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” This is the conduct of the Christian, walking or living in the Spirit.
Then verse 17 describes this battle we’re talking about, verse 17 is so important. In one verse the Christian’s daily battle is portrayed, encapsulated in one verse, verse17: “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.” We called this the Christian’s conflict: lusts against the Spirit.
Every day of the Christian’s life, there is this battle within. We have the “old self” or the “old nature” or the “old us” still with us. “Sin remains but no longer reigns.” The old nature, the nature that is ours by inheritance—from Adam and Eve—this old sin nature is still very much with us. In this passage the “old self” or “old nature” is described by the phrase “the flesh” or “lusts of the flesh.” The word “flesh” in this passage does not refer to the skin that covers our bodies. It is not physical flesh. It is something within us, unseen. It is the old nature, the “old us.”
But we also a new nature. 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation…” Ephesians 1:13, “…in [Christ]…having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise…” When you believed in Jesus, placed your faith in Christ, the Holy Spirt gave you a new nature and the Holy Spirit remains within you, inside of you, to help you live a life pleasing to God.
So verse 18: “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” You no longer under it, feeling the weight of the law’s commands, you are free from its condemnation, and able now to actually live it out through the Holy Spirit’s working in you and through you, creating within you new desires. So this describes the Christian’s correction, being led by the Spirit. Verse 18 is very similar to verse 16. We are led by the Spirit, but we must follow His leading. And we follow His leading by walking in the Spirit (verse 16).
See, while the battle within is strong and we fight it and we hate it, be encouraged that you are fighting at all! In other words, the only thing worse than having the battle within is not having the battle at all, a sign that one does not have the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit within.
This battle between the old desires and new desires is not a battle of equal forces. To use the Jekyll and Hyde illustration, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde are not equally powerful. Dr Jekyll has power over Mr Hyde. The Christian’s new nature, operated by the Holy Spirit, is more powerful than the old nature. The desires for Jesus Christ—and all the things of Christ—are greater than the desires for sin. They are! You may not feel that power if you have been in a habit of giving-in to your old nature, the lusts of the flesh. Again, verse 16: Walk in the Spirit and you SHALL NOT fulfill the lusts of the flesh.
The key, then, is to walk in the Spirit. Verse 16 is a summary of how to live every moment of every day. Again, verse 16: “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” Hear how the two parts of verse 16 GO TOGETHER: Walk in the Spirit, and you SHALL NOT fulfill the lust of the flesh.”
So while “sin remains, but no longer reigns,”—listen—The Holy Spirit who renews us, who actual brings about a new creation through faith in Christ, giving us new nature remains with us to live out our Christian faith. So while “sin remains, but no longer reigns,” you see “the Holy Spirit remains—and we must let Him reign!” And when he reigns, we will not do the stuff listed in verses 19 through 21 and we will do the stuff in verses 22 and following, “the fruit of the Spirit.”
Now, let’s look at verses 19 and following and read about some of the “lusts of the flesh,” all of these are the desires of the old fallen nature, the old us, the old self. The old nature is full of these desires, the lusts of the flesh, and they lead to the “works of the flesh,” works that Paul says in verse 19 “are evident.” Remember: If you walk in the Spirit, you shall not do the stuff mentioned in verses 19-21. What are these works of the flesh?
I’ve broken them down into four categories or four “realms,” the realms of sex, spirituality, society, and substances. Quickly, one at a time. First:
I. The Realm of Sex (19)
19 …which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness,
The term “adultery” appears only in the KJV and NKJV. It is an outworking of the next term which is “fornication.” That word is translated as “sexual immorality” by other translations and that’s probably the best term because it really is a catch-all term for all sexual sin. It is the Greek word porneia, from which we get the word “porn” or “pornography.” It is the word that sums up every sexual transgression—having sexual relations with someone before marriage, committing adultery, living with someone and being intimate with someone you’re not married to. Together with “uncleanness” and “lewdness” the Bible covers every sexual sin imaginable, lust, looking at pornography, thinking about sexual relations with someone other than one’s spouse, and so on.
Sex is a precious gift from God. It is a gift to husbands and wives to enjoy only in marriage. It’s not dirty. It’s only dirty when it is used wrongly, sinfully, outside of the bonds of marriage.
And we could spend quite a bit of time here. Our society is awash with sexual sin and temptation. You look at television, movies, the internet. There are programs on Netflix and Hulu and wherever else that are strongly sexually suggestive. And I don’t have a list, like “No Christian should watch these things,” that would be to lapse into moral legalism. We are free, but remember verse 13? “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh…”
Don’t say, “Well, I can watch this stuff” if you know that it awakens your flesh, the old you, the old nature. Now, if you want more material here, I have provided a link on the YouVersion app to a helpful article by John Piper regarding “Twelve Questions to Ask Before” watching sexually suggestive programing. He is answering a question someone asked about watching “Game of Thrones.” So if you don’t have the YouVersion app you can Google this later: “Twelve Questions to Ask Before You Watch ‘Game of Thrones.’”
It’s very helpful, asking questions such as, “Does watching this advance my holiness?” “Would I be glad if my daughter played this role?” and others.
Men in particular, men who are by God’s design highly visual creatures, must take care to guard their eyes, minds, and hearts, from sexual temptation. Works of the flesh in the realm of sex. Secondly:
II. The Realm of Spirituality (20)
Paul lists two here at the beginning of verse 20:
20 idolatry, sorcery,
There are many lost folks in our American culture. Many who claim to be “spiritual, but not religious.” As those who have grasped the only lifeline of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we must go to them and help them to salvation. Jesus is the only way to be saved. John 14:6. All other ways are wrong ways. The realm of spirituality. Thirdly:
III. The Realm of Society (20-21)
And Paul lists several sins in society, or sins regarding relationships, interpersonal transgressions, sins on the horizontal level, sins against others. I’ll just read them here, verse 20:
20 …hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies (better translated “divisions”), 21 envy, murders (“murders” occurs only in KJV and NKJV)…
But all of these “works of the flesh” flow out of the old nature. It’s the stuff we gravitate towards when we are not walking in the Spirit. Remember verse 16: “Walk in the Spirit and you SHALL NOT fulfill the lusts of the flesh.”
The realms of sex, spirituality, society, and fourthly:
IV. The Realm of Substance Abuse (21)
The last two sins catalogued are:
21 …drunkenness, revelries,
Both refer to the abuse of a substance that leads to even greater sin. And again, we could spend a great deal of time here given the careless sway of our contemporary culture. Everywhere we look alcohol and recreational drug use is seemingly championed.
Unfortunately there are even a number of Christian pastors who are speaking so boldly about their so-called liberty in Christ that they are causing other believers to fall into sin.
Let us never forget verse 13: “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh…”
There is something wrong with a desire that wants to get as close to the line as possible without crossing it.
You can dress up these works of the flesh, dressing them up in spiffy tuxedos. You can brush them with a lint roller and make them look nice, but they’re still sins.
And let us remember that these sins are really misplaced desires. Why does a person want to get a little fuzzy in the head? Because it makes him feel a certain way that he likes. Well, not only is it dangerous, but you’re missing the greater “high,” if you like, which is found only in Christ! You were made for Jesus Christ! You were made to treasure Christ more than any drug or any other competing desire!
This is why Paul adds the phrase in verse 21 “and the like,” any other wrong desires you have that lead to wrong actions, works of the flesh.”
Then there is this warning here in verse 21:
21 …and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Those who practice such things, the things in verses 19 through 21 “and the like,” those who practice such things “will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Paul is not talking about the regretful momentary lapse of a Christian. He’s talking about a continual pattern, an habitual pattern, a lifestyle of verses 19-21.
Heed the warning: if you feel no compunction, no lasting conviction and guilt about acting out in these ways, then you clearly are not “born of God,” born from above. You do not have the Holy Spirit within you, creating in you new and wonderful healthy desires.
Walk in the Spirit and you SHALL NOT fulfill the lust of the flesh. How? How do we walk in the Spirit? Remember these two pictures that lead to two actions. The picture of our old nature dying on the cross and our new nature delighting in Christ.
**Two Facts Christians MUST Remember:
We’ll come back to this again next time.
1) Remember Your “Old Self” is Dying on the Cross
Verse 24: “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
When we repented (turned) from our sin, we crucified our old natures. We nailed it to the cross. It is dying. Remember in crucifixion that death does not come suddenly, but gradually. That old nature is losing life, losing power. This is something we have done. This is something, then, that we continue to do in our thinking. We remember it and review it. Daily. We must maintain this ongoing spirit of repentance.
Here is an application of what it means to “take up the cross” daily by seeing to it that the crucifixion of your old nature leads to final death. Leave the “old nature” alone. See it decaying on the cross, losing power with each passing day. Leave it to die its slow death. Don’t try to take it down from the cross and attempt to reanimate it. It’s dying. Leave it alone.
Consciously, deliberately, actively, reject the works of the flesh, by seeing that work as part of the old you, that old self, decaying, dying, on the cross. It doesn’t belong with you anymore.
So a wrong thought enters your mind, an envious thought, a bitterness, a sexual lust, an unforgiving spirit. What do you do? You don’t toy with it, looking at it, handling it as though you were trying to take your old nature down from the cross. You must be decisive and quick: let it die. Don’t think about whether you may be able to examine it, looking a little more closely at it, fondling it. No! You have already crucified it when you repented and turned from it. You have turned from sin. Leave it there to die. It will eventually die. Let it alone!
The old puritans like John Owen called this mortification. Like mortician. Death. Killing sin. John Owen said, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” Remember your “old self” is dying on the cross. You are saying no to sin. And you are saying yes to Jesus. Second fact Christians must remember:
2) Remember Your “New Self” is Delighting in Christ
Vivification! The word means life. Daily life in Christ by way of the Spirit!
Worship Jesus, love Jesus, by way of the Holy Spirit within you, love Christ and find Him to be your soul’s greatest joy and satisfaction. Doing this while rejecting the works of the flesh, produces the fruit of the Spirit.
But we must remember both these facts. There is a letting go of the old sinful nature, and an embrace of Christ. Listen to:
1 …let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us (MORTIFICATION), and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (VIVIFICATION)
Our new life desires more of Christ by way of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is renewing us, giving us new passions, stronger desires for good, holy desires, healthy desires. He is doing this! Make no mistake. God really is forming new desires in you, Christian! The Holy Spirit is doing this. Be encouraged! Victory over recurring sins is within your grasp!
How then to walk in the Spirit? We must be active. Just as we must actively say “no” to the lusts of the flesh, so we must actively say “yes” to the Holy Spirit’s work within us—making room in our hearts for these new desires to take hold. And when they do—love! Joy! Peace!—the fruit of the Spirit is produced. More about that next time!
So how to say “yes” to the Holy Spirit. Thinking. Less praying, more thinking. Setting your minds on the things of the Spirit.
Emerson said, “A man is what he thinks about all day long.” It’s true!
Romans 8:5, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.
Colossians 3:2, “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”
Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
Reading. Worshiping. Singing. Witnessing. Praying. Getting your heart in a happy place first thing in the morning. Loving Jesus with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
This is why we read Scripture. Memorize Scripture. Go to Sunday school. Go to worship. This is why we spend our leisure time wisely, not fulfilling the desires of the flesh—what a waste of time! What a waste of the means of grace!
You were created to love Jesus Christ. To find joy in Him! Only He can satisfy! I have decided to follow Jesus.
If you have been allowing your old nature, the old self, to pull you away to works of the flesh, repent this morning while there is time. Say, “God forgive me for my sexual sin, my bitter spirit, my envy, my abuse of alcohol.” Talk to Jesus. Say:
“Lord Jesus Christ, I admit that I am weaker and more sinful than I ever before believed, but, through you, I am more loved and accepted than I ever dared hope. I thank you for paying my debt, bearing my punishment and offering forgiveness. I turn from my sin and receive you as Savior.”
If you’re not saved, turn to Jesus this morning and grasp the lifeline of the gospel of Christ.
If you are saved, continue to grasp the lifeline. Allow your new desires within you to find their fulfillment in the one for whom you were created, Jesus Christ.
We’re going to sing our hymn of invitation and response. God is inviting us—every single one of us in the room—God is inviting us to respond to His Word. You want to be saved, join the church, be baptized, you come at this time and I’ll meet you here at the front. Before we sing, let’s pray.
“Lord we are going to sing in a moment about following you. We will say, “No turning back, no turning back. Give us the grace we need to do that right now in Jesus’ name, amen..”
Now stand and as we sing, you respond however the Lord is leading you.
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