Friday 28 June 2019

                  GALATIANS 5, v13/25
In all Paul’s Letters he adopts the pattern of setting out doctrine in the first part before going on to illustrate practical application.

He has set out in Galatians the danger of listening to false teachers who tried to impose the need for new Christians first to accept the restrictions of Jewish Law and practice.  Now in this last half of the Letter he is warning that freedom, if not properly applied, can turn into licence.  Christian freedom given to us in Christ, demands self control.  This passage is full of the mention of the Holy Spirit,

When I first entered Christian ministry, I was inspired and influenced by a well-known Baptist pastor who taught faithfully and fearlessly, and in simple terms, through a Bible passage.  I have tried to emulate that style, but it can be difficult at these times when there is so much liberal Christianity, and I have found there is nothing so illiberal as a liberal; they do not allow a contrary view or opinion, and tend to infer some kind of phobia or allegation of intolerance on anyone trying just to interpret Scripture as God intended.

This passage is full of the Holy Spirit, seven times by name, and presented as the One who can tell you what to do so that you won’t be doing the wrong things and following our natural desires which are just the opposite. We can read the Bible and other religious writings and know all the theory, but find it hard to put into practice. 

In this passage Paul is calling on us to obey the Holy Spirit’s guidance so that we will not offend God by following less than proper actions.  When we follow our own inclinations we often engage in such actions as eagerness for our own pleasure, impurity of some kind by word or deed, jealousy, envy, hatred or pride.

There are two sides to all our natures, and often life is a struggle as to which one prevails.  In the Christian life two forces between flesh and the Spirit compete.  In the flesh, what we are by nature and fallen condition, but when under the influence of the Holy Spirit, we become the kind of person of which Jesus would approve.  In the flesh, what we are by birth; and in the Spirit when we are born anew.

This is where baptism needs to be understood sensibly and theologically.  In the baptism service in some denominations it is declared ‘that this child has been born anew (or again)’.  It is both nonsensical and irresponsible to say a new born child, or a child of most ages, knows what being born again means in the spiritual sense.  Before a person can claim to be born again, there has to be repentance from sin, and a confession of faith.

Christians will often face an internal struggle intensely as their own nature dearly wishes to follow a course of life which their spiritual conscience tells them is wrong, and the Holy Spirit will not let them feel comfortable with it.  He will convict us by reminding us why Jesus died on the Cross.

 The story of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is well known.  The doctor, who was a respected London surgeon, had discovered a drug which caused him to change his nature and so do shameful things.  When he came out from under its influence, he was ashamed of himself, but the drug was too strong to resist and in mental torment he killed himself.

By nature and inheritance we all have a conflict within us which at times causes us to do things we know within we should not be doing, and it is only with the power of the Holy Spirit we can fight and resist, for we cannot fight on our own.  Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to help and give us the ability and the Bible states, ‘if anyone does not have the Spirit of Jesus Christ he does not belong to Christ’.  The Holy Spirit provides all the resources, and Paul is saying, be like Christ.

 When we are led by the Holy Spirit our lives will reveal love, joy, pace, patience, kindness, goodness faithfulness and self-control.  These are the fruits of the Spirit and fruit depends on the health of the tree.  Spiritual fruit means character and producing a quality of life.  If we follow Christ we shall produce abundant fruit.

A Christian should always be aware that he or she is a public figure in that when people know you are a Christian, they will watch you and any fall from grace will be noticed and commented upon.  As Paul viewed things, Jesus Christ was the most important part of one’s life and the Christian should devote oneself to act in such a way as to be worthy of Him. This is largely the theme of Chapter 5 of Paul’s Letter to the Galatians.

The non-Christian may face a moral conflict and never feel guilty, for they are doing what seems normal behaviour, but the Christian will feel an internal conflict quite strongly, for the Holy Spirit will not allow a Christian to feel at ease with improper behaviour. 

The Church is often reluctant to speak frankly on parts of the Bible as many within, both lay and clergy do not subscribe fully to what is written, and often fall down on more than one sin.

It is still a fact that most of us who attend Church strive to live in the way we are called to do so, and to a great degree succeed.  When we do fall, we know Christ is waiting to pick us up, having given His life on the Cross to put us right with God.

The works of the flesh are spelled out in verses 19/21 starting with sexual immorality.  When Paul wrote this, he was referring to behaviour which preachers of today find the most sensitive of subjects.  If they preached it as it was meant when written, they would lose many of their congregations, for all sexual relationships outside of marriage were being condemned. 

The greater part of the population is living in ‘partnership,’ and, or, indulging in sexual conduct.  The psychotic devotees of political correctness now object to the terms, husband/wife.  When I am asked about my partner, I reply firmly that I do not have a partner, but I do have a wife and am quite proud to be a husband. 

The press and television have fanned up the flames, giving the impression that free sex is not to be ashamed of and is quite acceptable and an essential part of life.  Almost every relationship portrayed on television programmes involves an immediate sexual encounter.  This had led young, and very young people to feel odd if not taking part, and led the United Kingdom to have the largest teenage pregnancy rate (and abortions) in Europe, in spite of the legal fact that under age sex is contrary to law.  Judges have made rulings which encourage free sexual expression. 

The list goes on to mention impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, hatred, malice, jealousy anger, rage drunkenness, wrong doctrine. 

Paul adds that anyone who belongs to Christ will have nailed such evil desires to his cross and crucified them there, but we must accept there are plenty of people within the Church who have not done so.   There are far too many calling for sexual behaviour, which is totally contrary to Scripture, to be seen as acceptable. Last year we had the incredible statement of senior clergy, inviting couples to come and get married in Church and bring their children to be baptised at the same time, a sort of two for one offer. Even society found that mad.

We frequently find people who will not be friendly with other members, who get jealous when someone else gets asked to do something, and upset if they cannot have their own way.  This is a complete affront to Christian teaching and should be condemned when revealed.

Paul then turns to speak of the fruits of the Spirit which come when the Holy Spirit controls our lives. When we are Christian we must produce love, which is the opposite of selfishness and having a caring nature;-- joy being and making people feel cheerful;-- peace, not looking to make trouble; --patience, being long suffering and having endurance;-- kindness, always willing to be helpful and giving of oneself; --gentleness, a sensitive feeling to people;-- faithfulness, having dependability and reliability;-- and self control, not being ready to respond aggressively.

 For all those people who mock and ridicule Christians and the Bible, a time of reality will one day come when they will wish they had taken our way of life.

The Bible states ‘heaven can be entered only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad and its gate is wide enough for all the multitude who choose its easy way. But the Gateway to Life is small, and the road is narrow and only a few ever find it.

Make sure you choose the right road.


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