Thabiti Anyabwile | Gospel Freedom, Gospel Fruit | Galatians 5


TGC, what’s up? As they would say in the
Caribbean, Everyting criss, man? You all right? It’s a joy to be with you
guys. I got to confess every year, every winter I wonder if the Lord called
me back from the Cayman Islands. Shoveling snow. “This is the fall.”
It’s a pleasure to be with you. I don’t know why I am with you, why I
have this privilege. It is a privilege to address you from God’s Word and the reason
I’m unsure as to why I have this plenary session is I look at Don, and Don is 70, I
look at Peter Adam and he was around in 1905 when… Tim Keller is about to
retire. I thought, maybe they think I’m older than I am. So, I dyed
my hair gray just to fit in. Have your Bible start with me to Galatians
Chapter 5. I’m going to resume our consideration of God’s word in this letter
through the apostle Paul under the subject of Gospel Freedom and Gospel Fruit. And
with God’s help, we’ll consider the entire chapter and unlike my dear brother,
John Piper, I’m glad to have an entire chapter. Did you notice John was like,
“Why are you giving me a whole chapter? People can’t follow me.” And then he
preached the whole book of Galatians? I was like, that’s my chapter man,
stop it. Galatians Chapter 5, beginning verse 1. This is God’s word.
“For freedom, Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not
submit again to a yoke of slavery. Look, I, Paul, say to you that if you
accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I justify again to
every man who accepts circumcision, that he is obligated to keep the whole
law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law.
You have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we
ourselves, eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus,
neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith
working through love. You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the
truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the
whole lump. I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the
one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. But if I,
brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that
case, the offense of the cross has been removed. I wish those who unsettle
you would emasculate themselves. For you were called to freedom, brothers.
Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but
through love, serve one another. You shall love your neighbor…” Excuse
me. “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, “you shall love your neighbor as
yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you’re not
consumed by one another.” But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not
gratify the desires of the flesh. For 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, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.
But if you’re led by the Spirit, you’re not under the law. Now the works of
the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry,
sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions,
divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I
warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not
inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy,
peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness,
self-control. Against such things, there is no law. And those who belong to Christ
Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the
Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited,
provoking one another, envying one another.” We come now to
what the other brothers have pointed out. Is a kind of practical,
pastoral section of the letter. The apostle Paul has defended his own
ministry and authority in Chapters 1 and 2. In Chapters 3 and 4, he’s given us this
long discourse on justification by faith alone, quite apart from works of the law.
And now, he comes in Chapter 5 and he begins, I believe, to address them with
some pastoral apostolic application. And I think in Chapter 5, if you’re taking
notes, we might organize our thoughts for the sermon sort of with two observations.
Number one, we want to see three pastoral concerns for churches losing the gospel.
Three pastoral concerns for churches at risk of losing the gospel. And in number
two, we want to consider the one effective solution that Paul gives as a remedy to
that problem. Three pastoral concerns. But first of all, we might see Paul’s
concern for spiritual apostasy. We see that there in verses 2 to 4. Paul
feared the Galatian church would fall away and he told them so in the strongest
possible terms. So, there in verse 2, if you accept circumcision Christ will be
of no advantage to you. In verse 3, every man who accepts
circumcision is obligated to keep the whole law which cannot be kept.
Verse 4 he says there, quite startling, “You are severed from Christ,” and also in
verse 4, “You have fallen away from grace.” Paul has just really cleared
that turning from freedom to the law represented a kind of spiritual
decapitation. They were cutting themselves off from Christ who is the head of the
body. From whom the whole body receives its nourishment and in whom was
their righteousness before God. So the apostle is urgent in his language,
in his confrontation. And this kind of language can trouble
Christians who lack full assurance and Christians who don’t want their
theological systems disturbed. But Paul here speaks of a real falling
away. A real apostasy from the faith. And that apostasy, notice beloved, does
not come by a wholesale rejection of the faith, but by the simple addition of
snipped foreskin. You can hear those spies, who came in in Galatians 2 verse 4
were to spy out the liberty of the good Galatian churches and then take
them captive. You can hear them, can’t you? They’re saying to the churches,
“Listen, it’s one little procedure. It’s very important, but it’s over in a
moment. You do this and then you’re truly right with God. Then you can
go on knowing that you really are accepted. It’s just one little
thing.” That one point-in-time action, done for the purpose of self
justification, nullifies all the advantages of Christ. It puts a person
back into debt, back into slavery, to the law, cast him off from the Lord.
That one attempt at self-justification is a perilous fall from grace, not a climb to
God. Paul expresses his concern about this apostasy. Secondly, he expresses his
concern about their perseverance. Paul wondered about their continuing in
the faith. We see that in verses 7 to 12. He sees the church as hindered from
obeying the truth. He tells them that turning back to the law does not come from
God. Verse 8, this persuasion is not from him, the one who calls you. Chapter 3,
verse 1, they’ve been bewitched, they’ve been seduced, they’ve been
tricked. So they must learn to distinguish the hiss of serpents from the whisper of
God. And they must see that this so-called small thing will ruin the entire church.
There in verse 9, a little leaven, leavens the whole lump. Paul uses
the same language in 1 Corinthians 5, where he’s there discussing sexual
immorality. And what Paul says in 1 Corinthians Chapter 5 about sexual
immorality also applies here in Galatians in matters of gospel doctrine. The
church, to quote 1 Corinthians 5, must cleanse out the old leaven, that you
may be a new lump as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our
Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us, therefore, celebrate
the festival not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, we
may say, the leaven of legalism, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity
in truth. This is out of his pastoral concern for their perseverance, that Paul
addresses them, but notice to assure them. He goes on to say, “I have confidence
in the Lord,” not in the Galatians, but in the Lord, “That you will take
no other view.” I love this about the apostle. He’s so helpful to us as pastors
in modeling for us how to address errors among our people. As you read his letters,
you see him noting grace in the lives of his people and noting that grace, he calls
them up further into yet more of that grace or as in this case, you see the
Apostle speaking quite strongly, a word of warning to the Christians in
Galatians, but then salving the wound with assurance. It’s a good pastoral practice
to apply a healing bandage wherever you must surgically remove error. And not
only does Paul assure the Galatians, but see how he goes on to divide
the church from the false teachers. As Matthew Henry put it, in reproving sin
and error, we should always distinguish between the leaders and the led.
And that’s what Paul does here. He has confidence that the church
will accept no other teaching, but then he also says confidence that the
one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. You’re seeing the
difference? Assurance for the saint and a reckoning for the wretched. Destiny of the
true church is not synonymous with the destiny of the false brothers. Indeed,
Paul goes even further in verse 12 to wish the false teachers to emasculate
themselves. They’re so fascinated with the snipping of foreskins, why stop there? I
think the NIV says, “Go the whole way.” This just begs for Lorena Bobbit jokes,
but I’m not going to make it. See that’s why I’m not going to make… So
he distinguishes the church from the false brothers. Then Paul demonstrates
his solidarity with the gospel and by implication with the Galatians Christians.
Verse 11, he still preaches the cross without adding circumcision. That’s why
he’s persecuted. If he preached this false gospel, everybody would love him. You
haven’t noticed that the world loves a false gospel? Crowds are attracted to
a false gospel. You get the golf clap applause from the world when you
say things other than the cross. But Paul says, “No, I am being persecuted
because I take my stand on the cross alone. That Christ’s sacrifice is
sufficient and nothing need be added to it. That’s the stumbling block. That’s the
stone of offense. That’s why they persecute me and that’s why they will
persecute you, beloved. With this singular message of Christ alone, crucified,
atonement for our sins, which reveals something very important, doesn’t it? God sometimes uses persecution because of
the cross as the means for perseverance in Christ. But sometimes that persecution
has a way of burning off the draws and purifying the gold. It’s a way of taking
his leaders and his churches and deepening their commitment to what is foundational
and true. As a sense in which persecution authenticates or verifies our gospel
claims and our witness. If it comes because we proclaim his cross and add
nothing to it. If our churches are to be protected against apostasy, beloved,
and our Saints are to persevere until the end, then our pastors, like Paul, had
better be committed to the gospel of the cross without anything else.
Paul is concerned about the apostasy, he’s concerned about their perseverance,
but number three, Paul is concerned, pastorally, about their unity. We get
hints of that in verses 15 and 26. But if you bite and devour one another,
watch out that you are not consumed by one another. Verse 26, let us not become
conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. Verse 15 comes from
the Greek language, a phrase that loosely translated means these Christians were
spending too much time on Twitter, he says, condemning himself. False
teaching never unifies true brethren. It always divides. And wherever
legalism is the false teaching, then legalism has this
particular characteristic of bringing with it a censorious, and self-righteous, and
judgemental spirit. That’s what leads to the contention of verse 15. That’s
what leads to the pride of verse 26. Legalism turns the church into a
congregation a spiritual cannibals, devouring each other. As one’s laws are
put against another laws and the tendency to inspect and to denounce grows. That’s
why they end up with these provocations and jealousies. Again, to quote Henry, If
Christians who should help one another and rejoice one another quarrel, what can be
expected, but that the God of love should deny His grace? That the spirit of love
should depart and the evil spirit who seeks their destruction should prevail.
Happy would it be if Christians, instead of biting and devouring one
another on account of different opinions, would set themselves against sin in
themselves and in the places where they live. It’s a good instruction, I think
the apostle Paul would agree. And like every good pastor and Christian,
Paul seeks to the unity of God’s people, the unity of the church,
in the truth of the Gospel. That’s why he warns them about the
divisiveness and the social effects of legalism. So, as we kind of skim this
letter, we see those three concerns for apostasy, perseverance, and unity. And the
question arises, how does the Apostle then intend the Galatians to fight off these
threats? What is the solution? Well, in one word, freedom.
Christian freedom is the antidote to the Galatian error. But a right understanding
of freedom is the theme that runs through the first-half of this chapter very
explicitly, and I think continues in the second-half as well. It’s why the book of
Galatians has been called theMagna Cartaof Christian liberty. That is the book
gives us a great charter of religious rights, a kind of religious liberty.
Galatians focuses the Christian on the the gift and grace of having been emancipated
by Christ and it’s the proper understanding of Christian freedom that
inoculates the Christian church against the small pox of legalism. So Paul, then
sort of outlines this doctrine of freedom in about five points here. Number one,
the first thing he wants us to do, is embrace our freedom. To embrace it, to
enjoy it. I take that from the words in Chapter 5, verse 1, for freedom, Christ
has set you free. I’ll let that ring in the heart. For freedom, Christ has set us
free. And sometimes Christians move too quickly to an instrumental
view of freedom. In other words, we think of our
freedom as a means to something else, as a way to do something
else and it is that, but Paul first wants us to see and to enjoy
the fact that we are free. To embrace it. To cherish. He’s telling us
in verse 1, that there’s a sense in which freedom is the goal of the gospel.
Christ is the great abolitionist. He has come into our lives and destroyed
our enslavement, and he’s destroyed our bonds and he has set us free. And we might
actually enjoy that new state and when we consider some of what we are freed from,
then we understand why we should embrace it. We are free from the curse of the law,
we are free from the curse of Adam, Romans 5:12 and 17, we are free from
spiritual death, Ephesians 2:5 and 6, we are free from the fear of death
itself, Hebrews 2:14 and 15, we are free from condemnation, Romans
8:1, we are free from the power of sin, Romans 6:17 and 18, we are free from the
authority of Satan, Colossians 1 verse 13, we are free to inherit all that Christ has
purchased for us, Galatians 4:5 through 7. We have to breathe in this fresh air
of freedom. Fill our lungs with, fill our minds with it, enjoy it. That’s
what our souls desire the moment we were quickened and brought to
Christ. It’s freedom. Some years ago, I remember being riveted to the screen
as I watched Steven Spielberg’s movie,Amistad. I don’t know how many of you
have seen that. I was surprised to learn it’s 20 years old. The Amistad was a slave
ship headed to the new world when the captured Africans, about 53 Mende
Africans revolted and took over the slave ship. They spared the lives of two
officers and demanded that they turn the ship around and sail them back to Africa.
And instead, the captors tricked them and sailed them on to America where they were
recaptured, treated as runaway slaves, and put on trial. And that trial was
interesting. Queen Isabella of Spain claimed that the Africans were Spanish
property, La Amistad was a Spanish ship. President Martin Van Buren had the then
Secretary of State for the United States represent Spain’s interests. And the two
Navy officers who found that the Amistad and captured it before it made landfall,
they claimed the men as salvage and the two Spanish officers presented their proof
of purchase. Everyone made their claim for enslaving these men. The men they
themselves of course, were in a new world that they had no understanding of, among a
people whose language they did not speak. Everything was strange. They were lost.
They had survived the horrors of the middle passage, only to face a court
system rigged against them. But the leader of the Mende, a man
named Cinque, a great leader was actually quite brilliant. Along the way through the
court proceedings, he began to pick up fragments of English. And one day during
the trial, in the middle of a trial as everybody is making their claims for these
men, Cinque stands up in the middle of the trial and he says in broken, yet
clear, English, ‘”Give us free.” And he repeated it, “Give us free.” And
that’s what happens in the soul of every person who comes to Christ. They revolt
against the chains of slavery in sin. They see Jesus, who he is and
the life that he offers. And so, Christ, give us free. A trial with those
53 Africans would actually make its way to the Supreme Court before they were set
free. How much more the person who cries to Christ for freedom? How much more will
he be liberated by the courts of heaven, and hear to savior say, for freedom, I
have set you free, and breathed in the fresh air of liberty? We must embrace that
freedom as the former slaves that we are. But only must we embrace it, but we
must, number two, protect our freedom. That’s what Paul says in the second
part of verse 1, stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of
slavery. Notice the two halves of this protection. There is
the resistance to outside enslavement, stand firm. And there is a
resistance to internal submission. Do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
When it comes to Christian freedom we have enemies, foreign and domestic, outside and
inside. We have to stand watch against them both. We must not be taken by outside
forces and we must not comply with our own enslavement. It’s a marvelous thing,
really. But enslavement tends to produce a slave mentality, where the slave adopts to
world view of the slave master and feels drawn back into his former slavery.
Slavery had become the world that he or she knew and so becomes the world that
they seek to re-enter even though they’ve been free. Think of the Israelites. For
400 years in bondage in Egypt. And God sends them Moses, and through
Moses, and through signs and wonders, delivers that vast people from their
bondage, their hard slavery in Egypt and what do the Egyptians do in the wilderness
when it gets just a little bit hard? They start piling away for Egypt.
They start talking about, “Oh, when we were in Egypt, we
had it so good.” It’s like, fool, you were making bricks without straw.
We get another example from history in Harriet Tubman. I love this woman. A
courageous woman who was called the Moses of our people. She escaped from slavery
herself in Maryland, and would make seven or eight trips, nine trips back to
Maryland and over the course of time, on the underground railroad,
freed some 60 to 70 slaves. And she sometimes found that slaves were
too afraid to risk running away for freedom. They’d start toward freedom,
but then want to turn back. Tubman tells the story of one man who
wanted to turn back to the plantation when morale had gotten low as the slaves
they were traveling far, and hiding, and in terrible condition. And Tubman,
herself, carried a revolver, she was a pistol-packing mama. And she
said this man was complaining and talking about going back and of course, if he did
that he would expose the entirety of the runaway train, right? And it’s said
that Tubman took the revolver, pointed it at his head and said, “You go
to freedom, or you die.” A few days later, that man arrived with
everybody else in Canada. If you allow me the analogy, Galatians 5
is Paul’s rhetorical revolver to the head of a church that will either go on to
freedom in Christ or die in slavery. And Christians, we must protect our
freedom, we must cherish it and you recall from Galatians Chapter 2, this
is Paul’s own example referring, in verse 4, to those guys who came in to
spy at their freedom so that they could re-enslave. Paul goes on in verse 5 to
say, “We did not submit to them for one moment. We gave them no ground. We gave
no compromise. We bartered or brokered nothing.” And do you remember what
he says in verse 5? Essentially, so that you, Galatians, would have the
gospel. The truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. See the preservation of
the Gospel was bound up in Paul’s mind with his stands for Christian freedom.
Should this freedom be lost, then the whole Gospel would be lost. And
all would be lost. I wonder if we view the protection of Christian freedom as that
important. I wonder if we see, like Paul, that the future of the Gospel
hangs in the balance when it comes to the proper enjoyment and protection of
Christian freedom. We must embrace our freedom, we must protect our freedom.
Number three, we must express our freedom. This is what we see in verses 5
and 6, “For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait
for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision
nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” We
see two expressions of faith and two expressions of Christian freedom in
these couple of verses. Number one, we see it expressed in this waiting,
in this eager anticipation. And we see along with that, this
expression, Paul’s love for the the three great Christian virtues: faith, hope, and
love. You see is through the Spirit, by faith, we wait for the hope of
righteousness and a little bit later, we see it expresses itself in love.
That’s what freedom looks like. Waiting with hope for righteousness.
It’s an interesting, but completely understandable phrase given the argument
of Galatians. Since we by faith, in Christ, receive a righteousness,
not our own, we by that same faith, wait for the revelation, a final and full
revelation, of that righteousness when Christ returns. That is our hope that we
will one day see the one whom God made to be our righteousness, sanctification, and
redemption according to 1 Corinthians 1:30. Our confident expectation is to
receive the promised inheritance that God gives us through faith in Christ and
guarantees us through the ceiling of the in-dwelling Spirit of God. We just
expressed it in waiting, but it gets also expressed, verse 6, in love. In Christ
Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything.
But only faith working through love. You see the Apostle’s balance here. You
might be tempted to argue that since circumcision adds nothing to
Christ, cuts you off from Christ, makes Christ of no advantage to you, then
not being circumcised is the superior thing. So folks could swing in the other
direction, they can boast of being uncircumcised as a mark of spiritual pride
and enlightenment, but Paul rules both things out as a means of justification
with God. Neither one counts for anything. They are both entirely irrelevant. The
only thing that counts is faith working, or as NIV puts it, expressing itself
through love. And in that sense, faith replaces circumcision as a
sign of God’s spiritual offspring. The way both circumcised Jew and
uncircumcised Gentile get marked as belonging to God is by faith in
Christ alone for justification. And that faith has a face. It may be seen.
The face of Christian faith is Christian love. By faith, we wait in hope and by
faith, we express love to the brethren. You see Paul’s argument that’s far.
We have been freed from the law, we have been freed for freedom, we have
been freed to love. This brings us to number four. We should, in verses
13 and 14, employ our freedom. We should use our freedom. And it’s
interesting, when we look at verses 13 and 14, the Christian does not center him or
herself and their freedom on their own personal desires. In the world, freedom
comes to mean doing what you want for yourself. My wife and I had a vivid
illustration of this with our son recently. He’s 10, going on 90. And my
wife, I think, asked him to go upstairs and do something ordinary in every day
like take a shower which 10-year old boys just hate, right then. And he’s kind of
sulking and he says, “I can’t do nothing. I’m not free to do anything.” And as it
happened, we had just come from a conference just like this where he had had
room service, and played his video games, had hang out, and we come back home, and
he and I both had played about two hours of the Xbox. And so my wife is like, “What
are you talking about boy?” That’s how black parents parent. And she recounted
all the enjoyment he had just had. It was really clear. You’re choking
yourself with an irresponsible use of freedom. You’re glutting yourself on this
use of freedom. That’s not the Christian idea. We’re not adopting a libertarian
view of freedom that concludes that anything goes. According to the Bible,
there are proper and improper, convenient and inconvenient, uses of
Christian liberty. That’s what makes versus 13 and 14 so important, look there.
For you are called to freedom brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an
opportunity for the flesh, but through love, serve one another for the
whole law is fulfilled in one word: You shall love your neighbor as
yourself. I find verse 13 remarkable. In all the Christian conversation you’ve
had, think about it, about calling or being called to something, have you ever
heard anyone say, “I feel called to be free?” But that’s precisely what the Bible
says here. We were called to freedom. That calling includes the enjoyment and
now the proper use of that freedom. That’s the caveat, is it? Liberty, as one
writer puts it, is not the same as libertarianism. Freedom from the law does
not mean freedom to indulge the old nature or to sin with impunity. In other words,
beloved, freedom is not rebellion. That’s a stereotypically, worldly and
teenage idea, not a biblical idea. Instead, we are, through love, to
use our freedom to serve others. Love turns us away from our bellies
and turns us toward our brothers. And ironically, the love that serves as
brothers and sisters, did you notice this? Ends up fulfilling the law. The
commandment to love one another. You can’t keep the law as a means for
justification, but if you come to Christ, who is our righteousness, and you
trust in him and you obey him, and that obedience that comes from faith,
you will discover that you wind up loving God’s people, and as a consequence,
in some measure, fulfilling the law. And in that love that serves its brothers,
is the antidote to that self-righteous and schismatic spirit that bites and devours
in verse 15. This is immensely practical doctrine, beloved. It means that an answer
to the question, what is God’s will for my life is always in some sense, use
your freedom to serve others. See a need, serve a need. You’re blessed
with freedom, now use your freedom to bless others. So how are you doing at this
beloved? At embracing the freedom that you have in Christ, and expressing
that freedom and hope and love, and using that freedom to serve
your beloved saints in Christ? That’s what we’re meant to do with
freedom. But there’s another thing here. We are also meant to improve
our freedom, if I can put it that way. To improve our freedom. That’s
what we see in verses 16 to 26, that well known section on the fruit of
the spirit and the works of the flesh. Paul is really continuing his
discussion of the free Christian life. That life, as he alluded to in verse 5,
is a life lived through the Spirit. It’s not a life lived through or by
the flesh, by the sinful nature. As verse 16 puts it, there’s an
irreconcilable war going on between the Spirit and the flesh. The Spirit of
God wants one thing for us, our sinful nature desires another. The
two do not overlap at any point. In verse 17, for 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, to keep you from doing the things you
want. And that reminds us in miniature, of that struggle Paul writes about in Romans
7, doesn’t it? The good I want to do, I do not do. The things I do not
want to do, I find myself doing. He is trapped in this tug of war between
contrast and desires that oftentimes war and get in the way of doing things or
tempt him to do things. What is with all of us? Question is then how do we improve
our freedom? Well, we must choose sides in this war. Have you decisively chosen
your side? Who you fight with? Verse 18, we must be led by the Spirit. We
must as those belonging to Christ, verse 24, purchased by His blood, we must
crucify the flesh with his passions and his desires. We must put the old man to
death daily. He has a remarkable tendency to resurrection. There’s no treaty you can
strike with him, there’s no compromise, there’s no cohabitation that’s going
to be profitable for the Christian. You must kill that sucker every day. In verse 25, living by the Spirit
keeps us in step with the Spirit. And that made me beg the question, how do
we know if we’re keeping in step with the spirit? Well, it’s verses 19 to 23 that
give us the diagnostic tool for knowing whether we are gratifying the flesh or
living by the Spirit. We see the works of the flesh listed beginning in verse
19. Paul says these are evident. In other words, they are obviously
belonging to the sinful nature and in three categories, they are the sexual
works of the flesh: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality. They’re what we
might call in air quotes “the sacred works of the flesh, idolatry, and sorcery,”
and then there is, thirdly, the social works of the flesh, enmity,
strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy,
drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. Paul runs out of things,
he says a whole lot more. These are the kinds of works that tell us
we’re being controlled by the sinful nature, which means we should
never deceive ourselves, beloved. We should never choose a
fleshly desire and say it’s from God. God does not tempt us with evil. God the
Holy Spirit does not want what our sin nature wants. We must be clear eyed and
ruthless about this in a culture that is constantly telling us, God made me this
way, or God is okay with this decision, or I feel at peace about it, and
it’s contrary to the Word of God. Recently a friend sent me a quote from the
journalist, Turner Hessi Colts, [sp] writing a little while ago about gun
control, actually. Making his argument for why he’s against guns and favors
gun control and it is, I think, a powerful, though, he’s an atheist and
not intending at all to represent the Christian doctrine to depravity, it is a
powerful description of depravity and a rather wise understanding of guarding
against it. This is what he writes. I’ve been with my spouse for almost 15
years. In those years I’ve never been with anyone, but the mother of my son. But
that’s not because I’m an especially good and true person. In fact, I am wholly in
possession of an unimaginably filthy and mongrel mind. But I am also a dude who
believes in guard rails. As a buddy of mine once put it. I don’t believe in
getting in the moment and then exercising willpower. I believe in avoiding the
moment. I believe in being absolutely clear with myself about why I am having a
second drink and why I am not. Why I am going to a party and why I am not. I
believe that the battle is lost at happy hour, not at the hotel. I am not a good
man, but I am prepared to be an honorable one. This is not just true of infidelity,
it’s true of virtually everything I’ve ever done in my life. I did not lose 70
pounds through strength of character, goodness, or will power. My character
and will angels towards cheesecake, can I get Amen? Angles towards cheesecake,
fried chicken, and beer in no particular order. I lost that weight by not
fighting a battle, listen to this, on desires terms, but fighting before
desire can take effect. There are compacts I have made with myself and with my
family. There are other compacts we make with our country and society. I tend to
think those compacts work best when we do not flatter ourselves, when we are fully
aware of the animal in us. Ain’t that good? We cannot feed our
flesh, that beast, that animal within us, that unimaginably crave in mind and hope
to please God. We must crucify it along with its passions and desires. We fight
the fight for Christian liberty at the level of desire, not external behavior. We
fight that fight by wanting for ourselves, what God wants for us. See the good
life, the one is pleasing to God, comes through life in the Spirit. Paul
describes that in verses 22 to 23. But the fruit of the Spirit is love,
joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness,
self-control. Against such, there is no law. That’s the
life we want. That’s what the free life really looks like, the Spirit
filled life really looks like. That’s the life that we are called to.
That’s the life we have been set free to pursue in Christ. It’s the life that the
Holy Spirit produces in us as he lives in us and as he sanctifies us. It
is the life of integrated virtue. This is the life that is the antidote
to the conceit, and provocation, and envy of verse 26. It’s
this life that protects the church from pride and division. Notice,
against the fruit of the Spirit, there is no law. God has issued no
commands that limit the use of freedom to pursue and express love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness,
and self-control. Beloved, these things are never wrong.
They’re never condemned by God. Ever notice in fact, even in the world of
human laws, there’s no condemnation of these things. They’re unimpeachable
because they are holy, and good, and right, and come from God. Whose
side are you fighting on in this war? Are you siding with the Spirit of God,
through faith, waiting eagerly for the adoption of the sons of God, using your
freedom for the blessing of others, embracing it as precious indeed and
refusing anyone the ability to re-enslave you? This should be from evident from
Galatians. Any time you start to look free, others will be in trouble.
They come along and they’ll say, “Hey let me give you a little
law for that. There, I fixed it. You’re as visible as I am now.” Well,
they’re out there and we must resist it. Are you on the Lord’s side or even now, do
you recognize, as we read his catalog of works of the flesh, that those things
typify your life? Oh, beloved, do not be deceived. God is not mocked.
If those things, the works of the flesh: sexual immorality, envy, discord,
jealousy, fighting, all of those things, if that marks your life, hear well
what the apostle Paul says here. That those who do such things will
not inherit the kingdom of God. But you may be free. If you have never
come to Christ, you may come to Christ even this day. You may confess your sins
to God. You may agree with him that they are sins and you may confess blessed Lord,
you may confess that your sins are your slave masters. You’ve tried to
be free sometimes, haven’t you? You have tried to modify your behavior,
you have tried to stop doing those things, but they keep coming back, don’t they?
That’s the evidence of your bondage, beloved. That’s the evidence that the
world of flesh and the devil are in court arguing for which one will
be your slave master. See, the evidence that you need to be set
free. And the glorious promise of the gospel is that you do not earn your
freedom, it is Christ who sets you free by being righteousness for you, obeying God’s
law in our place where we could not, and paying the penalty of God’s law,
breaking God’s law by his death on the cross. There he offers himself as
a substitute for you and me, former slaves of sin,
current slaves of sin. He was buried and three days later, raised
from the grave for our justification. For our righteousness with God. And he
calls all people everywhere to repent of their sins and trust in him and
be set free. Be justified with God, be filled with the Spirit, and
live for ever in the love of God. He offers that freely. No
ualifications, no background checks, no down payments. Christ has paid it all.
Come get it. Come be set free. For, beloved, we will either embrace
our freedom or submit to slavery. We will either serve our own sinful
desires or fulfill the royal law of God as serving others in love. We’ll either walk
by the Spirit or commit the works of the flesh. Freedom properly embraced
and protected, expressed and used, improved upon by the Spirit, makes for a
glorious living. Even when the sun sets free, it’s free indeed. Live free and
glorify the God who set you free. Let’s pray.
Oh, Father, if we have thought far too little about the freedom you have
accomplished for us in Christ, we do pause now to repent of that. To
think, oh Lord, longer about what you have done in manumitting us and
setting us free, and crushing the chains of slavery to sin and fear of death, and
transferring us from the dominion of darkness into the kingdom of your
beloved son. You have made us free. And grant like those men who are free
indeed, we will be mighty in the Gospel. We will take our stand and protect
it and we will advance the gospel. And we would suffer any persecution that
comes through your hands gladly for the sake of being identified with you, and
that we would not give one ground, one inch of ground, to those sneaky slave
masters who would re-enslave your church. And granted, we will use our freedom
wisely to love others and not gratify our desires. To pursue life in the spirit and
not the flesh. We are persuaded that you saved us and that you will continue your
good work in us until the day of Christ Jesus. So Lord, carry it on by helping us
to live in the fullness of the freedom you provide. We ask this Father in the
glorious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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