Focus: Galatians 5:19 – 23
19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
Today’s devotional reading is one that reached out and grabbed me when I first came to be a Christian several years ago. It’s also one that I come back to; it’s one that we read and discuss in our house with some regularity. Why the importance on this reading? I think because it’s such an accurate description of the human condition that every follower of Christ faces. Who doesn’t experience the battle Paul writes about between our sinful nature and the Holy Spirit going on inside of them? How often do we turn on the TV or sit down at a computer and see our eyes immediately drawn to something sexually suggestive that unconsciously causes a lustful stirring? How regularly do we engage in gossip with friends or co-workers that demeans other people (whether by actively talking about someone else or giving your passive agreement by staying there and allowing it to happen)? How often do we harbor jealousy for what a co-worker, acquaintance, or even a friend has attained? How many of us regularly consume media that gives rise to those same stirrings of our sinful nature that Paul outlines in verses 19 – 21? Game of Thrones? Twilight? Music, images, video that degrades or objectifies other people created in God’s image? I’m not calling anyone out because I think I’m innocent; I wish I were, but I know I do the same. Does this impact my salvation – I believe that I am saved solely by God’s grace; through Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross; my sins are forgiven and I am sealed by the Holy Spirit. Each of us will be tempted by our sinful nature, and unfortunately, we will sin (for more on this battle, read Romans 7). When we give in to our sinful nature, we must come back to walk in God’s love, mercy, and grace. So, no; I don’t believe this affects my salvation because I belong to God through the blood of His Son, Jesus, and I am sealed by the Holy Spirit. However, I also believe that giving the devil a foothold in our lives by following our sinful nature starts us down a slippery slope – one that leads to heartbreak, away from God’s best, and significantly diminishes our ability to effectively serve God.
I don’t want to give the impression that our sinful nature is the most powerful influence on our lives. When Paul writes about this battle we all face, he talks about the powerful weapon that God has equipped us with – the Holy Spirit. As Paul writes in today’s reading: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.” If you’re a Christian, the Holy Spirit gives you fair warning when you’re listening to your sinful nature. That feeling we get that maybe this movie isn’t the best choice or should I really be visiting this website or listening to a certain song – that’s the Holy Spirit convicting us, warning us that what we’re considering or doing is dangerous. In Proverbs 4:23, King Solomon wrote, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” The New Testament echoes this same warning in multiple places (for example in Romans 12:2 where Paul talks about not being conformed to this world and in Colossians 3 where he talks about setting our thoughts and desires on what is holy, Jesus, not on the worldly). So why are we warned like this? As Christians, we know we are given this warning because we are under attack. Satan is an enemy who has been defeated by Jesus on the cross. If we believe Jesus is our Savior and Lord, we belong to God. As Paul tells us in Romans 8, there is no power (not even Satan) that can separate us from God once we belong to Him. However, even though he knows he can’t have us after death if we belong to God, the enemy will do everything in his evil power to make our lives on earth miserable. And that misery is exactly what we fall into when we ignore the Holy Spirit and permit our sinful nature to run amok like Paul describes in Galatians 5.
However, God has given us the Holy Spirit as our weapon (in Ephesians 6 when Paul is telling us to put on the armor of God, all of the armor is defensive in nature with the exception of the Sword of the Spirit). When the Holy Spirit convicts us, we must be careful to listen to Him. Instead of just rationalizing that what the Spirit is telling us is wrong is actually OK (it’s not real, it’s just entertainment, I have to watch/listen/read this or I won’t understand what’s going on culturally and be able to relate, I agree with him or her on most issues so what’s the big deal if they support something I know goes against my value system, everyone gossips/views porn/tells little lies/etc so what’s the big deal, I could go on – pick your poison), we need to stand firm in the armor of God and rely on the strength and might of God’s Holy Spirit. We need to live by the Holy Spirit’s Power – as Paul put it, “ Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.”
Father, thank You for Your Holy Spirit. As Paul writes in Romans 7, I want to do good, but on my own, I know I can’t. I don’t have the capacity in me, through my own works or self, to follow your law; when I look at Your law, I just see everything I do wrong. I feel ashamed, frustrated, and sometimes depressed because I keep coming back to the same sins again and again. However, I believe that Your Holy Spirit living in me is stronger than my sinful nature or anything the enemy can throw my way. Please give me the courage and faith to rely fully on Your Holy Spirit. Please provide encouragement in my life to help me follow You. I love You, and I trust You. In Jesus’ name… Amen.