Saturday, 20 February 2016

The spirit of the Gospel

Exeter Temple Message notes:  31st January 2016
Bible Reading: Galatians 5:13-25

In striking a match against a damp match box; you don’t congratulate yourself for the number of marks you made on the side of the box. It’s fire that you’re after. 
There is little point in the Christians in Galatia engaging in religions activities if they don’t result in a vibrant connection with God, holy living, inner peace and loving relationships with others.  That’s the spirit of the Gospel. It’s the fire that we are after.
The life of victory comes not from following an external code but from obeying an internal presence. The Holy Spirit takes the place of the law as the controlling power in the Christian’s life. 

1.      Over selfish desires
"Live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature." Galatians 5:16
The word desire has become a little debased, appearing in the titles of cheap romantic fiction or in the headlines of tabloid newspapers.  But desires are not necessarily wrong. Jesus expressed his desire as; "Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am and to see my glory the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.” John 17:24
Peter wrote "As new-born babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby," 1 Peter 2:1-3
Not all desires are bad desires and not all desires that are good desires have to be what some people would call religious.  All of us have personal desires which contribute to who we are and what we give to the world.  To be passive in what you want and to let others choose for you can be a negation of responsibility, putting the onus of decision making upon others.
But there are some desires that are wrong because they are born out of what Paul calls the “sinful nature.”  This is the part of us that acts in rebellion against God and insists that it rules our lives not him. The other  characteristic of the sinful nature is that it rebels against other people having either a higher or equal place to us.  We often call the sinful nature- selfishness.  A desire becomes wrong when it feeds rebellion against God or when it seeks preference over others, regardless of how it affects them. 
 Sinful desire results in the sinful behavior listed in Galatians 5:19-21.  The Message translation gives the list an up to date reality;
“It is obvious what kind of life develops our of trying to get your own way all the time, repetitive, loveless, cheap sex, a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming yet never satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone to a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community.”

If we describe the sinful nature that way, then it is easy to see how contrary it is to the way of the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of Jesus.
“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.”  Galatians 5:24

In the time Jesus lived on earth only criminals were condemned to die by crucifixion and our selfishness is to be treated as a criminal. Death by crucifixion was lingering but it was certain. When we nailed our selfishness to the cross by coming to faith in Christ we can put it to death.  Of course when a criminal was crucified he was left to die but soldiers kept guard to ensure no one took him down before he died.  We must leave our old selfish desires natures on the cross to die and not give in to the cry to let them come back off every so often.  When we do that we are living by the Spirit.

2.      Over how we live
The Spirit doesn’t just deal with our past selfishness but comes into our lives to take control over how we live day to day.
  “But if you are led by the Spirit you are not under law.” Galatians 5:18
What starts off as something we wanted can become something which enslaves us and then we battle to change and try to produce right actions whilst inwardly desiring to do the opposite.  The gospel message is that a person who has the Spirit within finds that their desires have changed and now they don’t need rules and regulations to force them to do right, they want to do it.

Many people were worried that if Paul kept on preaching that people didn’t need to be controlled by strict religious laws, then chaos would reign and people would think they could sin in the morning; get forgiven in the evening and do it all over again tomorrow.  But Paul argues that indwelling of the Holy Spirit in a person means that what you ought to do becomes what you want to do and what you now want to do, you can now do.

The Holy Spirit produces in us a desire for God’s way.  We don’t lead him; he leads us. We are being led by him through the stronger desires he awakens within us. Being led by the Spirit" stresses the Spirit’s initiative and enablement. The work of the Spirit in our lives is not just about eradicating something. It is about producing something.  If our sinful nature produced that ugly list I read out, the life under the control of the Spirit produces fruit.
 The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

3.      Over what lies ahead
Since we live by the Spirit let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 5:25

Waiting and walking with a person is a sign of respect, of recognition of friendship.  If we applied the same language to a husband and wife, we could put it, “Since we entered into a permanent committed relationship with one another let’s consider one another in the decisions we make and let’s do things together.”  
Exchanging external religion for reliance upon the inward power of the Holy Spirit is more than a doctrinal procedure it is the beginning of a life of partnership with him.   It means practicing faith becomes a lifestyle, not an occasional event.
 “Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts but work out its implications in every detail of our lives.”   (Galatians 5:25 The Message)

It means that we don’t just do our own thing, we find out what the Spirit wants.  This applies to us as individuals but this is also a corporate aspect to this. As a community of believers, if we are living by the Spirit, we will not just come up with good ideas and schemes we will consult the Spirit.

Living in step with him means we can never become static.  The imagery Paul uses of life in the Spirit being like a walk shows us this. Walking indicates a forward movement. Walking with God implies our making progress or advances in the divine life. Walking, in the very first idea of the word, seems to suppose a progressive motion. A person that walks, though he or she may move slowly, still go forward and do not continue in one place. and so it is with those who walk with God.

The scriptures indicate that we should be making progress more and more in our Christian walk. “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 3:18

Rather than drift about and vegetate spiritually perhaps it is a time for us to really ask the Holy Spirit, “Where do you want me to go next with you?  Where do you want us to go with you as your people


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